Like most people, I get very anxious around needles and benefit from having distraction music during medical treatments or procedures. When I’m listening to music, I don’t think too much about what is happening around me. This is beneficial, because I can easily relax and not pay attention to what is going on around me. Here are my tips for choosing distraction music for medical treatments and procedures and characteristics of good distraction music.
How I listen to music
Since many of my treatments involve examining my head and neck, I rarely use headphones to listen to distraction music. However, if your treatment doesn’t involve your head or neck, most doctors will allow you to listen to music on headphones. I recommend using headphones that can be plugged in to a music player, because wireless headphones may be prohibited at the hospital. For some of my MRIs, the technician gave me special headphones I could wear inside the machine to listen to music.
During other treatments, my doctors will play music for me on their phone or on a speaker nearby so I can hear it. Since they know how anxious I get about needles, they are happy to help me with calming measures.
Play “guess the artist/song”
I love classic rock and a lot of popular music from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. My neurologist will choose a random song for me from one of those decades and have me guess who sings it and what song it is. Sometimes, I guess it quickly and mentally recite the lyrics. Other times, it takes me a few minutes to guess. I’m so focused on trying to figure out who it is that I ignore the needles.
Choose slow to mid-tempo songs
When I was getting a MRI done in ninth grade, the technician put on a pop music station that I listened to for several hours. A lot of the music had a quick tempo, and I started subconsciously tapping my foot to the beat, which messed up the imaging. Slow to mid-tempo songs with an even beat is best.
Choose musicians that use lots of different instruments
It’s more interesting to listen to a song that has lots of different layers and instruments than to just listen to a song with one instrument. I like listening to songs with multiple instruments because then I can focus on each individual layer. Long instrument solos are also entertaining for me, because they often have complex rhythms or note patterns.
Repetitive beats can be a good thing
Sometimes, it helps me to be able to listen to the same thing over and over again so that I focus on it. Pink Floyd is great distraction music for medical treatments for this reason, because many segments of their songs tend to repeat. I’ve listened to their song “Money” a couple of times for distraction music, and it works well.
Loud music is rarely calming
Listening to music where people are screaming or where there are loud/jarring instrument sounds can be distracting, but not in a good way. It can cause people to tense up or aggravate existing pain, especially head pain. Choose more peaceful or soothing music that promotes healing.
Avoid lyrics about pain
Okay, this is a pretty funny story. My neurologist decided to play Johnny Cash’s greatest hits album during one of my Botox treatments for cervical dystonia. They figured that the entire treatment would last two songs, maybe three total. What ended up happening was that things ended up taking longer than expected and the fourth song began to play, which was “Hurt.” Hearing the line “the needle tears a hole” made me feel very anxious and I immediately asked them to switch songs. We were able to laugh about it afterwards though.
Moral of the story, make sure whatever song you choose doesn’t mention pain, needles, or similar themes. It will not help with distracting from the pain!
Have friends make a playlist
When one of my friends was going through a lot of medical treatments, a bunch of us got together and made them a playlist. We chose a mix of their favorite songs along with songs we thought they would like. They really appreciated it, and it was a good way for them to be introduced to new music during long treatments. You can do this by creating your own playlist on a streaming music service or YouTube.
Choose what makes you happy
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what distraction music for medical treatments works best for you. Choosing music can be a great distraction when preparing for medical tests, and I know that listening to music helps me dread going to appointments and treatments a little less. I hope you find music that makes you feel happy and calm!