Expired CME Article

Music as Therapy

Authors: Kathi J. Kemper, MD, MPH, Suzanne C. Danhauer, PHD


Music is widely used to enhance well-being, reduce stress, and distract patients from unpleasant symptoms. Although there are wide variations in individual preferences, music appears to exert direct physiologic effects through the autonomic nervous system. It also has indirect effects by modifying caregiver behavior. Music effectively reduces anxiety and improves mood for medical and surgical patients, for patients in intensive care units and patients undergoing procedures, and for children as well as adults. Music is a low-cost intervention that often reduces surgical, procedural, acute, and chronic pain. Music also improves the quality of life for patients receiving palliative care, enhancing a sense of comfort and relaxation. Providing music to caregivers may be a cost-effective and enjoyable strategy to improve empathy, compassion, and relationship-centered care while not increasing errors or interfering with technical aspects of care.

Key Points

* Music is widely used to promote a sense of well-being and to distract patients from pain and other unpleasant symptoms, thoughts, and feelings, while being convenient and readily available.

* Music helps to improve mood and decrease anxiety, as well as decrease the pain associated with surgery, medical procedures, and chronic conditions; it also helps ease the dying process.

* Music may help premature babies to gain weight more quickly.

* Music may enhance care-giving behavior.

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