How Music REALLY Relieves Pain

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 Stef dela Cruz 0 Comments

Music has always been the panacea for all woes – emotional ones, that is. But does music relieve physical pain? Is there enough evidence to support the claim that listening to music can help relieve pain?


Does music relieve pain?

To help answer the above queries, a study by Bradshaw et al published at the Journal of Pain revealed that people do experience less pain when listening to music, especially those who were quite agitated at the beginning of the experiment. In other words, music may help relieve anxiety, increasing the threshold for pain. By the way, that’s medical mumbo-jumbo for “less anxiety, less pain”, in case you found all of it too confusing.

Although the implications of the study are encouraging, the results also imply that if your pain is not entirely due to a lowered pain threshold which was caused by anxiety, then music just might not help.

CONCLUSION: Based on the above study, if you’re the jittery type, listening to music can soothe your nerves and make you feel less pain during painful procedures, such as when your dermatologist gives you acne surgery (a.k.a. “facial”).

I guess that also means that if you’re not entirely scared of breaking up with your girlfriend, then turning your mp3 player on while giving her the bad news is not going to make her open-palm slap sting less. Open-mouthed smile

Although much more research needs to be done to find out if “music medicine” has a role in pain management, I could say that there’s no harm in putting on your headphones. It’s better than listening to yourself say, “Ouch!”

Another study, this time by Nilsson et al, was conducted last 2009 on eighty children. The study, published at Paediatric Anaesthesia, revealed that kids who listened to music needed much less morphine after surgery.

But Cochrane rules all, what with their meta-analysis and all. (To those who don’t know what a meta-analysis is, it’s when the results of different studies are pooled together to come up with one consolidated conclusion.) In this meta-analysis by Cepeda et al, findings from 3663 participants from more than fifty studies were pooled. The analysis revealed that many of the studies indeed showed promising results, with music-exposed participants needing less opioid for pain relief.

Of course, nothing is final just yet. The results, no matter how encouraging, seem to show that music relieves pain only minimally. So, does music relieve pain? Perhaps it does, but not to a huge extent. Although much more research needs to be done to find out if “music medicine” has a role in pain management, I could say that there’s no harm in putting on your headphones when you’re about to experience something painful. It’s better than listening to yourself say, “Ouch!” Laughing out loud

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She maintains a health column in Health.Care Magazine and contributes to The Manila Bulletin. Add her to your circles.