Music Therapy for Pain Relief

Music therapy has been used for pain management in many areas including palliative care, rehabilitation and hospital environments. Music is a sensory stimulation that elicits physical and emotional responses due to familiarity, predictability, positive feelings and memories associated with it. Music that someone enjoys can help the brain to release opioids (the body’s morphine), dopamine and endorphins (the happy chemicals).

Music can be used to manage pain in various ways. It can be used to distract, to modify the perception of pain, to motivate, to manage stress and anxiety around pain and initiate relaxation. To get the best results it is important to use music that is enjoyable. This differs for every person and may include classical, jazz, popular, country and western or even heavy metal.

There are many practical strategies that can be used for pain management.

Using music to distract:

  • Reminisce whilst listening. Remember special memories associated with song. Try and remember when you first heard the song.
  • Listen with purpose. Focus on a certain instrument or word. Count instrument entries or words to help focus on music.

Using music to motivate:

  • Use music to help you exercise. The beat will help your body to find it’s rhythm. Sing as you walk.
  • Try and use music as a measure of time. Do a movement until the end of a song.
  • Use music to focus your breathing. Breath slowly in time with the music, 4 counts in and 4 counts out.

Using music to relax:

  • Try a progressive muscle relaxation
  • Try a guided imagery session
  • Listen to your favourite music and get lost in it

Using music to reduce pain does work. Studies have showed significant effect on patient’s perception of pain, treatment, relaxation, respiration rate, anxiety levels and amount of analgesic medication required. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

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