Music Therapy for Anxiety and Pain After Spinal Cord Injury: A Pilot Study

Christina Wood, Susanne M. Cutshall, Donna K. Lawson, Heidi M. Ochtrup, Noelle B. Henning, Brianna E. Larsen, Brent A. Bauer, Saswati Mahapatra, Dietlind L. Wahner-Roedler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Music therapy (MT) programs have been used in various health care settings to reduce patients’ pain, anxiety, and stress. However, few studies have investigated its effects on patients with spinal cord injury (SCI), a frequently serious event requiring extensive rehabilitation. Objective: This pilot study evaluated the feasibility of offering music-assisted relaxation (MAR) during rehabilitation for patients with SCI. We also measured the effect of MAR on the patients’ pain, anxiety, and stress levels. Methods: Patients were hospitalized at Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota) from September 2015 through September 2017 for rehabilitation of an SCI. Eligible patients received 2, 20-minute, personalized MAR sessions. Interventions were facilitated by a board-certified music therapist (MT-BC) and included diaphragmatic breathing, guided imagery, and passive muscle relaxation with live guitar accompaniment and spoken, improvised, or singing voice. Two surveys (Generalized Anxiety Disorder [GAD-7] and Perceived Stress Scale [PSS-10]) were used at the time of study consent and again upon hospital dismissal. Pain, anxiety, and relaxation were assessed before and after both MT sessions with visual analog scales (VASs), scored from 0 to 10. Participants completed a 7-question satisfaction survey after the second MAR session. Results: Twenty patients were enrolled (12 men, 8 women); 13 (65%) completed the MAR interventions. The mean (SD) age was 53.7 (17.7) years. VAS scores for pain significantly improved after both sessions (P ≤.02). VAS scores for anxiety also significantly improved after both sessions (P ≤.02), as did VAS scores for relaxation (P ≤.02 for both). The satisfaction survey indicated that patients generally believed that they benefited from MT. Rehabilitation staff indicated that MT did not interfere with routine clinical care. Conclusion: MT with live MAR is a feasible treatment for patients with SCI and may be effective for reducing their pain and anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalGlobal Advances In Health and Medicine
StatePublished - Nov 22 2021


  • music
  • music therapy
  • rehabilitation
  • relaxation
  • spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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