Associations between music therapy, pain and heart rate for children receiving palliative care


Music Therapy Perspectives




Music therapy (MT) is a widely used non-pharmacological intervention in pediatric health care, an integral part of pediatric palliative care (PPC). Yet, there is a lack of evidence of efficacy, and best practices are not well established. The nature and extent of physiologic impacts of MT in PPC have not previously been reported. This study explores how MT contributes to psycho-physiological changes in children receiving palliative care. We used a convergent mixed-methods feasibility study with a pre–post design. MT sessions were delivered to children (0–18 years), who were registered with a statewide Pediatric Palliative Care Service. Pre–post measures of pain and heart rate were collected using validated and objective measures and analyzed using mixed-model analysis. Analysis of 36 MT sessions demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in pain scores and heart rate after MT sessions. Post measures of pain measured with Face, Legs, Activity, Cry, Consolability scale (FLACC scale) scores were −1.57 (95% confidence interval [CI] −2.31 to −0.83) and by Likert pain scale −2.03 (95% CI −2.79 to −1.27). Heart rate reduced by a mean of −7.6 beats per minute (95% CI −10.74 to −3.37). Five parents participated in semi-structured interviews. Following thematic analysis, two major themes emerged: (1) MT has a positive impact on physiological symptoms and (2) MT enhances the opportunity to experience joy. Results demonstrate the feasibility of study components and may inform future research design for a larger study. This research contributes to the limited evidence about non-pharmacological interventions enhancing the quality of life for children receiving PPC. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved)

Music and Health Institute Terms

Pain; Pain Management and Control; Psychological Outcomes; Wellness and Well-Being; Physiological Measures; Subjective Measures; Hospital Setting; Palliative Care; Children; Music Therapy; Receptive Music Methods; Recreative Music Methods

Indexed Terms

Pain; Pain Management; pain; non-pharmacological; Heart Rate; palliative care; Palliative Care; Treatment; Pediatrics; pediatric

Study Type

Quasi-Experimental Study; Quantiative Methods

Document Type