A systematic review published in the Lancet has revealed that music can help ease pain after surgery – unless it’s crap, in which case pain increases.
Hospital studies over ten years showed reductions in pain and discomfort when a patient was exposed to songs with melodies, well-structured chord sequences and nice voices. If songs had a literacy age of over nine years of age, a warm, fuzzy sensation was also reported.
Britpop, country music and 80s TV themes fared well in the studies. The Beatles scored very highly for an individual group, while the Monkees on several occasions induced vomiting and diarrhoea. ‘Druggy’ bands such as Pink Floyd provided extended pain relief, while jazz provided no effect on pain at all, but instead induced mild sensations of confusion and terror.
The idea that music can ease pain goes back to the days of Florence Nightingale, when hospital camps in the Crimea reported more pain reduction if situated near musicians. Modern hospitals next to music studios and gig venues have often reported positive results. The exception is Salford hospital, located near the home of Liam Gallagher. No-one lives near Bono.
The authors of the Review recommend that more music be played on hospital sound systems, in order to benefit patients. However, they also warn of dangers. Manufactured pop bands, such as The Spice Girls or Westlife, actually increase pain, and in one horrific case a patient developed brain damage when they got too close to Angels by Robbie Williams.
There is also a risk of death if anyone, anywhere, ever plays a Bee Gees record.