Chronic Pain

Benefits of Music Therapy For Chronic Pain

If you love music, then you may not be surprised by the finding that music can have notable effects on chronic pain. It has been shown to alleviate both pain and stress. Whether it’s listening to music or creating it, music therapy can be effective in helping to treat chronic pain and can be a useful component in medical care.

In one USA study, researchers Dr. Sandra Siedlecki and Dr. Marion Good tested 60 patients with a history of chronic pain. Patients had been suffering from painful conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and disc problems for a number of years. The average age of participants in the study was 50 and patients had been recruited from pain and chiropractic clinics in Ohio, USA.

Participants were divided into three groups of 20. The first group of 20 people listened to their own favorite music which included everything from pop and rock to slow relaxation music and nature and environmental sounds. The second group was asked to choose from five relaxing tapes chosen by the researchers. These tapes included jazz, orchestra, piano, harp and synthesizer. The third group of participants formed the control group and did not listen to music. The first two groups listened to music on a headset for one hour each day for a week. All three groups kept a pain diary.

At the end of the study, results showed that participants in the two music groups experienced a reduction in pain levels between 12% to 21%. The control group, on the other hand, experienced increased pain levels by 1% to 2%. In addition, participants in the two music groups reported up to 25% less depression than the control group. Researchers say the results of this study are statistically significant showing that just one hour a day of listening to music can play an important role in the treatment of chronic pain.

Woman with cancer listening to music on headphones at home

As Dr. Siedlecki states, chronic pain remains a major health problem. So, anything that can help relieve pain and provide relief to patients is welcomed. Music is not being suggested as a stand-alone treatment but rather as one component in a patient’s overall treatment plan. Previous research published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing in 2005 further showed that listening to relaxing music for just 45 minutes prior to bedtime can improve sleep by more than one third.

Listening to music can cause physiological changes in the brain and changes in the way the brain processes pain. This leads to changes in the overall experience of pain which may help to ease not only chronic pain but also acute pain. So, if you’re sitting in a dentist’s chair worrying about what’s going to happen next, engaging your mind with music on your iPod may help you zone out and keep you absorbed enough to help reduce your pain levels and your psychological distress. It may provide a distraction so that people stop concentrating on their pain. As the growing body of research points out, actively listening to music can promote a number of positive healthy benefits.


Siedlecki, Sandra L., Good, Marion. (2005) Effect of music on power, pain, depression and disability. Journal of Advanced Nursing. Volume 54.5, p. 553-562.

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