Effects of relaxation and music on postoperative pain: a review

J Adv Nurs. 1996 Nov;24(5):905-14. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.1996.tb02925.x.


Postoperative patients differ in their response to pain and opioids. It is therefore important that nurses offer other options as adjuvants to medication. Relaxation and music may reduce pain by interrupting the postoperative cycle of pain, muscle tension and sympathetic activity. This review summarizes and critiques studies on the effectiveness of relaxation and music use during postoperative pain. Relaxation and music were effective in reducing affective and observed pain in the majority of studies, but they were less often effective in reducing sensory pain or opioid intake. However, the between-study differences in surgical procedures, experimental techniques, activities during testing, measurement of pain, and amount of practice make comparisons difficult. Furthermore, within studies, the problems of inadequate sample size, lack of random assignment, no assurance of pretest equivalence, delayed post-test administration and no control for opiates at the time of testing reduces the validity of the studies' conclusions. Randomized controlled studies of the types of relaxation and music that are most helpful to postoperative patients should be explored in various contexts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Humans
  • Music Therapy / standards*
  • Pain, Postoperative / physiopathology
  • Pain, Postoperative / psychology
  • Pain, Postoperative / therapy*
  • Relaxation Therapy / standards*
  • Research Design
  • Treatment Outcome