Effectiveness of a music intervention on pruritus: an open randomized prospective study

J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2020 Jun;34(6):1280-1285. doi: 10.1111/jdv.16149. Epub 2020 Jan 14.


Background: Pruritus is a common symptom in many skin diseases. Music interventions have demonstrated their efficacy in different symptoms or diseases such as pain, depression and anxiety.

Objective: To evaluate the effects of a music intervention on pruritus.

Patients and methods: A randomized controlled trial was conducted from November 2018 to April 2019. Fifty inpatients with pruritus intensity ≥3/10 in various chronic skin diseases were randomized in a music group or an emollient group. The primary endpoint was the evolution of pruritus as measured by the Numerical Rating Scale before and one hour after the procedure. The secondary judgement criteria were the effects on patient anxiety, the impact of pruritus on the quality of life and patient satisfaction (NCT03701971).

Results: Fifty patients with chronic pruritus were included, 62% were male, and the average age was 60.7 years. The most common diseases were psoriasis (N = 10), atopic dermatitis (N = 8) and contact eczema (N = 6). The average ItchyQol score was 64.8/110, showing a significant impact on quality of life. The intensity of pruritus decreased more significantly in the music intervention group than in the emollient group: 2.3 (SD 2.1) and 1.2 (SD 1.7), respectively (P < 0.05). There was a decrease in anxiety in both groups, with no statistical significant difference between groups. Among patients who received the music intervention, 64% reported feeling an improvement, 91% would recommend the music intervention, and 64% would like to continue this practice.

Discussion: Pruritus management is complex and requires first-line aetiological treatment. Aetiological or symptomatic treatments do not always provide enough relief; it is useful to find other therapeutic options. The music intervention has shown interest in our study. Its repeated use over the long term will be interesting to evaluate. As in pain, music may work by activating inhibitory neural circuits. The use of music is a simple method to manage chronic pruritus.

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03701971