Music therapy for pain and anxiety management in postoperative trauma patients

Elizabeth R. Moryc, Tori Langham, Andrew R. Wooldridge


Objective: Acute pain is a common and complex problem among postoperative trauma patients, burdening over 90% of the population. Although pharmacological interventions remain the mainstay of pain management in the inpatient setting, non-pharmacological interventions are emerging as legitimate adjuncts. The non-pharmacological intervention of music therapy has been shown to significantly and consistently lower pain and anxiety levels. This quality improvement project aimed to pilot the integration of music therapy for postoperative trauma patients at a Level I Trauma Center in the Southeast United States and evaluate its effects on pain and anxiety levels.

Methods: A before and after intervention study was conducted at the organization over a 10-week period. Unit registered nurses were educated on patient inclusion criteria and placed music therapy consultation orders accordingly. A board-certified music therapist provided evidence-based music therapy intervention for consulted patients. A survey consisting of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory State-5 and the numeric rating scale for pain was administered pre- and post-intervention. A paired-sample t-test was run to evaluate the statistical significance of music therapy’s effect on pain and anxiety.

Results: The mean pre-test State-Trait Anxiety Inventory State-5 score was 8.43 (sd = 3.46), and the post-test was 5.64 (sd = 1.10) among patients who received music therapy (n = 28). A significant decrease in anxiety was found (t (27) = 5.227, p < .001). The mean pre-test numeric rating scale for pain score was 6.36 (sd = 2.59), and the post-test was 4.57 (sd = 2.66). A significant decrease in pain was found (t (4.90) = 4.892, p < .001).

Conclusions: Patients who received music therapy as an adjunct intervention achieved a statistically significant decrease in pain and anxiety levels. This quality improvement project validates current research and bolsters evidence-based practice recommendations that reference music therapy as a legitimate adjunct to pharmacological pain and anxiety treatment regimens.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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