The Effectiveness of Music in Relieving Pain in Cancer Patients: A Randomized Controlled Trial


International Journal of Nursing Studies




OBJECTIVES: To examine effects of sedative music on cancer pain. DESIGN: A randomized controlled trial. SETTINGS: Two large medical centers in Kaoshiung City, in southern Taiwan. PARTICIPANTS: 126 hospitalized persons with cancer pain. METHODS: Participants were randomly assigned to an experimental (n=62) or a control group (n=64), with computerized minimization, stratifying on gender, pain, and hospital unit. Music choices included folk songs, Buddhist hymns (Taiwanese music), plus harp, and piano (American). The experimental group listened to music for 30 min; the control group rested in bed. Sensation and distress of pain were rated on 100mm VAS before and after the 30-min test. RESULTS: Using MANCOVA, there was significantly less posttest pain in the music versus the control group, p< .001. Effect sizes were large, Cohen's d=.64, sensation, d=.70, distress, indicating that music was very helpful for pain. Thirty minutes of music provided 50% relief in 42% of the music group compared to 8% of the controls. The number needed to treat (NNT) to find one with 50% sensation relief was three patients. More patients chose Taiwanese music (71%) than American music (29%), but both were liked and effective. CONCLUSIONS: Offering a choice of familiar, culturally appropriate music was a key element of the intervention. Findings extend the Good and Moore theory (1996) to cancer pain. Soft music was safe, effective, and liked by participants. It provided greater relief of cancer pain than analgesics alone. Thus nurses should offer calming, familiar music to supplement analgesic medication for persons with cancer pain.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Cancer; Distress; Hospital Setting; Hospitalized Patients; Music Listening; Music Medicine; Pain; Pain Management and Control; Pain Score or Rating; Recorded Music Listening; Self-Report Measures; Visual Analog Scale (VAS)

Indexed Terms

Neoplasms; Pain; Pain Management; Taiwan

Study Type

Randomized Controlled Trial; Quantitative Methods

PubMed ID


Document Type