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  • Writer's pictureKeith L. Cooper (guitar)

The Power of Music & Surgery/Health Care

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

Do certain types of music benefit surgical patients?

By: Keith L. Cooper

In a simple Google search, “How do I prepare for surgery,” it is not surprising that numerous websites and blogs relate to the practical side of surgery. Dietary habits, clothing, and even blood pressure are discussed when preparing for surgery. But what does the medical community think about the role of music in preparing and recovering from this process? Emphasis on music is not common in most web articles. Most think little about music when it comes to preparation and recovery for our well-being. However, is it possible that music, and certain types of it, is vital in planning and recuperation for those facing surgery? In health matters, most desire to experience less stress and an easier time in the doctor’s office.

Consequently, the next time you find yourself under the surgeon’s knife, you may experience a bit more comfort, have an easier time for prep and recovery – and even save a few bucks! The question is: Is Any Style of Music Beneficial for Surgical Patients? Some types of music are more effective in limiting surgery stress and anxiety; some believe “any” piece of music can have a “positive effect” on pre-and- post-surgical patients. Data based on historical and current trends show that “types” of music may be more beneficial than others. In other words, not ALL music is helpful! Is Any Style of Music Beneficial for Surgical Patients? Most research suggests classical music, and in one study, Turkish-classical music tends to moderate anxiety and stress in patients. Studies also suggest soft, easy-listening, or new-age styles of music. Soft music might include classical music (Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart), crooner-style jazz (Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole), easy listening (Whitney Houston, Phil Collins), and new-age (Enya, Yanni). Some studies suggest fast or loud music styles, such as hard rock and grunge, hike blood pressure, stress levels, and other physical responses, potentially leading to skewed vital signs upon arriving at the doctor’s office. “High levels of anxiety and pain may result in a more difficult procedure” and an “increased need for sedated medication leading to negative physiological manifestations such as increased blood pressure and heart rate” (Ko, S.Y., Leung, D.Y., and Wong, E.M (2019), may lead to delayed procedures. The Greek philosopher Plato, in The Republic, published in 380 BC, argued that music’s dramatic character had a profound emotional and moral effect on the listener. Plato suggested certain harmonies supported relaxation and stress reduction, while other music, possibly relating to rhythm and tempo, inspired aggression and sadness.

Additionally, “Not only will the brain restore blood glucose levels and skin temperature to normal levels in response to listening to music, but it will also establish levels corresponding to a state of relaxation. Therefore, music can relieve its listener of stress and induce calmness in its place (Miluk-Kolasa, B., Klodecka-Rozalska, J., & Stupnicki, R. (2002). There is sufficient practical evidence of stress reduction to suggest that a proposed regimen of listening to {new-age} music while resting in bed after open heart surgery be put into clinical use (Nilsson, U. 2009).

Can Listening to Music Pre/Post-Surgery Benefit the Patient Money?

In 2012 there was a discontinuation of anxiolytic and antipsychotic medications and reductions in behavioral problems and depressed moods of some senior healthcare patients through music therapy (Thomas, K. S., Baier, R., Kosar, C., Ogarek, J., Trepman, A., & Mor, V. (2017). According to a study from the New York Times in 2015, surgical patients who listened to music while receiving general anesthesia had a 20% reduction in pain, a 10% reduction in anxiety, and significantly decreased pain medication. In another study, children completing echocardiograms without needing medication or a nurse by using music reduced costs by $74.24 for a single procedure (Walworth D.D).

In a final study, the total cost of patients who used music therapy was $10,659 versus $13,643 for standard care patients (those who did not use music), resulting in a cost savings of $2984, yielding a cost-benefit ratio of 0.83 (Gifford, L. (2007). This is another example of how listening to music pre and post-surgery is a cost-effective method of medication.

The underlying theme is that music can reduce healthcare costs, ultimately putting money back in your pocket! In addition, no adverse side effects of music as an intervention were found, and therefore seems a non-harming and non-invasive intervention in surgical practice (Wesseldijk, L. W., Ullén, F., & Mosing, M. A. (2019). However, consideration must also occur with your doctor and standard office procedures. How long should you listen to music before surgery?

According to the Journal Peri-Anesthesia Nursing, listening to as little as 15 minutes of music preoperatively effectively reduces anxiety in patients about to have surgery McClurkin, S. L., & Smith, C. D. (2016). Some researchers also suggest that music is best listened to with earphones. This becomes more personal and can block unnecessary talking and sounds in the waiting room. Music allows us to focus on the sounds of relaxation and the familiarity of some of our favorite artists. Often these memories conjure up positive feelings of family, friends, and other experiences that connect us with who we are. This could bring us an inner sense of confidence and peace before the surgical process.

Most of us scarcely consider the profundity of music as therapy or the financially promising aspects of it. As research points out, listening to soft or easy-listening music has proven benefits for the pre and post-surgery “woes,” possibly for putting money back in your pocket. When vital signs are typical (blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature), you are calm, and the doctor does not have to wait to begin a procedure that requires your vitals to be expected. This can make for an easier, less stressful time for you and your healthcare provider. The next time you do a google search on preparing for surgery, why not consider doing a google search on the benefits of music therapy?


Gifford, L. (2007). A cost-benefit analysis of music therapy in a home hospice. Nursing economics, 25(6).

Kemper, K. J., & Danhauer, S. C. (2005). Music as therapy. South Med J, 98(3), 282-8.

Ko, S. Y., Leung, D. Y., & Wong, E. M. (2019). Effects of easy listening music intervention on satisfaction, anxiety, and pain in patients undergoing colonoscopy: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Clinical interventions in aging, 14, 977.

McClurkin, S. L., & Smith, C. D. (2016). The duration of self-selected music needed to reduce preoperative anxiety. Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing, 31(3), 196-208.

Nilsson, U. (2009). The effect of music intervention in stress response to cardiac surgery in a randomized clinical trial. Heart & Lung, 38(3), 201-207.

Miluk-Kolasa, B., Klodecka-Rozalska, J., & Stupnicki, R. (2002). The effect of music listening on perioperative anxiety levels in adult surgical patients. Polish Psychological Bulletin, 33(2), 55-60.

Thomas, K. S., Baier, R., Kosar, C., Ogarek, J., Trepman, A., & Mor, V. (2017). Individualized music program is associated with improved outcomes for US nursing home residents with dementia. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 25(9), 931-938.

Walworth, D. D. (2005). Procedural-support music therapy in the healthcare setting: a cost–effectiveness analysis. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 20(4), 276-284.

Wesseldijk, L. W., Ullén, F., & Mosing, M. A. (2019). The effects of playing music on mental health outcomes. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-9.


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