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Relaxation and music to reduce postsurgical pain


Marion Good Associate Professor of Nursing, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106-4904, USA. E-mail:


Relaxation and music to reduce postsurgical pain

Aims: We investigated the effects of relaxation, music, and the combination of relaxation and music on postoperative pain, across and between two days and two activities (ambulation and rest) and across ambulation each day. This secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial was conducted from 1995 to 1997.

Background: After surgery, patients do not always receive sufficient relief from opioids and may have undesired side-effects. More complete relief (10–30%) was found recently with adjuvant interventions of relaxation, music, and their combination. Comparison of effects between days and treatments have not been examined longitudinally.

Methods: With a repeated measures design, abdominal surgery patients (n = 468) in five US hospitals were assigned randomly to one of four groups; relaxation, music, their combination, and control. With institutional approval and written informed consent, subjects were interviewed and taught interventions preoperatively. Postoperative testing was at ambulation and rest on days 1 and 2 using visual analogue (VAS) sensation and distress of pain scales.

Results: Multivariate analysis indicated that although pain decreased by day 2, interventions were not different between days and activities. They were effective for pain across ambulation on each day, across ambulation and across rest over both days (all P < 0·001), and had similar effects by day and by activity.

Conclusions: Nurses can safely recommend any of these interventions for pain on both postoperative days and at both ambulation and rest.