01/22/2015 04:07 EST | Updated 01/22/2015 04:59 EST

Music As Painkillers? Study Highlights Power To Minimize Kids' Pain

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PERTH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Rihanna performs live for fans at the first show of her Australian Tour at Perth Arena on September 24, 2013 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Stefan Gosatti/Getty Images)

(Relaxnews) - Listening to 30 minutes of music by artists like Rihanna and Taylor Swift or whichever artist the child prefers -- or even audiobooks -- could significantly reduce pain after major surgery, according to a new study at Northwestern University.

"Audio therapy is an exciting opportunity and should be considered by hospitals as an important strategy to minimize pain in children undergoing major surgery," said study senior author Dr. Santhanam Suresh. "This is inexpensive and doesn't have any side effects."

The research team was interested in discovering a non-pharmaceutical strategy for pediatric pain management because opioid analgesics can lead to breathing difficulties in children.

The 56 participants ranged in age from nine to 14 and selected their favorite music from a playlist of chart-topping music in genres that included pop, country, classical and rock.

Dr. Suresh emphasizes the importance of allowing the patients to choose their music.

"Everyone relates to music, but people have different preferences," he says.

Patients reported their pain levels before and after audio therapy by identifying images of facial expressions that best portrayed how they felt.

While the patients had varying amounts of initial pain, the therapy worked regardless of how much pain they complained of after their surgeries, according to the study.

The research team divided them into three groups, each of which had a different type of audio therapy that included audiobooks, music and noise-cancelling headphones, with sessions of each lasting for 30 minutes.

The only group that had no significant reduction in pain was the group that used the noise-cancelling headphones, according to the study.

The study, which was published in the journal Pediatric Surgery, is believed to be the first randomized evaluation of audio therapy as a method to manage pain in pediatric patients.


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