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Does Music Relieves Pain?

A Canadian  study would highlight the positive action of music in controlling pain, with a reduction in physical symptoms, psycho-emotional stress and less use of specific drugs

It also takes a little music, associated with traditional therapies, to help reduce and control pain. Even the important one, such as cancer pain or pain related to chronic or morbid pathologies. At least according to the data that emerged from a Korean study by Ewha Womans University in Seoul, published in the Journal of Music Therapy, according to which the notes of a song of any kind would alleviate anxiety and tension. That is, they would divert the patient’s attention from the painful stimulus alone, in favor of more relaxing and ‘calming’ thoughts and less use of specific drugs.


– This is a meta-analysis, that is, a review of nearly 100 studies conducted between 1995 and 2014, dedicated to evaluating the potential benefits of listening to music on pain control and management in over 9,100 patients. With a clear goal: to understand if and to what extent ‘music therapy’, alongside the traditional one, can alleviate physical symptoms and psycho-emotional stress, thus also reducing the intake of painkillers. In the various studies examined, the participants were invited to listen for about forty minutes to music of various genres chosen from classical, easy listening, new age, slow jazz and soft rock, or even selected by the researchers.Playing an Musical instrument can help you better according to the study.

Although the results were not confirmed by all studies, on average it was possible to observe, on a scale from 0 to 10, a reduction of about one point in pain perception among music listeners, compared to participants who had not been involved in the experiments. Results that proved to be satisfactory even in difficult contexts: “We observed benefits – explains  Lee, lead author of the study – even among patients resident in hospitals and / or hospice, therefore suffering from imported and / or complex diseases, which require targeted treatments of greater intensity and frequency.

The data that emerged would therefore confirm the effectiveness of music and the need to include, in traditional treatments for pain, also expert musical therapists, whose collaboration in the treatment has different potential and clinical objectives, including pain control and management “.


– The benefits of listening to music, the researchers attest, do not only concern the symptoms but also some purely therapeutic aspects. In fact, the reduction of pain is accompanied by a more limited use or a lower dosage of drugs, painkillers in particular. “Although in some studies the differences are minimal – adds Lee – it was possible to observe a lower use of painkillers including opioids, while there are no changes to the use of sedatives to report”. Some studies also attest to positive outcomes on important vital signs such as heart rate, pressure and respiration rate, which are better in the band. How can the phenomenon be explained? «Music – concludes the researcher – contributes to relieving stress and anxiety. That is, it has a calming potential that distracts attention from the painful symptom alone, involving the patient in other types of thoughts, for the benefit of greater participation in the therapeutic response to the disease “.


Music – comments Dr. Paolo, President of ESRA (Society of Regional Anesthesia & Pain Therapy) UK and Head of the Local-regional Anesthesia and Pain Therapy Service of the San Donato Polyclinic (S . Donato Milanese) – since ancient themes it has been considered, together with mathematics, one of the “universal languages”, capable of arousing different emotions based on the mood of the people who listen.

In this sense, it is known and well known that the type of music you want to listen to and the emotion that it can produce vary depending on the state of mind. For example, if a person is already happy in himself or has a predisposition to be happy, he is more inclined to listen to a more “gritty” type of rock music, if instead a person has returned from a hard working day he will be more capable listening to new age music. A similar argument also applies to people suffering from some pathology that causes them pain.

At this point it is therefore necessary to make a premise about the existence of various types of pain with various triggering causes, being able to affirm that pain has a multi factorial origin and as such can be treated in its various components and in some cases it can also benefit from listening to music. If the mechanism underlying the genesis of pain is understood, the pain itself can be treated in the best possible way.

For example if the pain is of somatic origin, due to a mechanical insult that has caused the release of inflammation factors and activation pain pathways, it is necessary to act on them with anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs; while if the pain is psycho-somatic in nature where the emotional sphere prevails over the somatic component, music can have an “analgesic” effect thus reducing the need for drug administration.

This is because listening to music causes an activation of various areas of the brain and in particular of the middle temporal lobe, limbic system, hypothalamus and brain stem with consequent release of endorphins, decrease in heart rate and blood pressure and of the hormones that regulate other devices. In this way it is possible to understand how listening to certain types of music can relieve the psycho-somatic pain of some patients, benefiting them and resulting in a lower need for analgesic drugs “.


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