What if you could recline on your sofa, turn on your stereo, play some music, and have your chronic pain start to disappear? There isn’t any therapy more easy and more peaceful than listening to music. “Music therapy” is a treatment usually used in a clinical setting to improve the quality of life for people with certain conditions; mainly, individuals with learning and behavioral problems, psychiatric disorders, and neurological deficits that range from autism to Alzheimer’s disease.
Basically, it’s used in those who have problems with physical, cognitive, social, or psychological functioning. Music promotes wellness, manages stress, helps express feelings, boosts memory, improves communication, and promotes physical rehabilitation. Music is sensory stimulation and it does one more thing as well — it helps control pain. A new study has found that the simple act of hearing an album play may reduce symptoms for the up to 75 million Americans who live in chronic pain due to a variety of illnesses.
At the Cleveland Clinic, a research team examined 60 people who had been suffering from chronic pain (for an average of six years), and gave them the following treatment regimen: listen to one hour of music every day. The participants did so for just one week.
If you are wondering what kind of pain they had, it was the kind that comes from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and disc problems in the back. Split into three groups, one section of patients could choose the music they wanted to hear on a headset; another received relaxing music featuring the sounds of piano, jazz, orchestra, harp, and synthesizer; and the third did not receive music therapy.
Regardless of the style of music, researchers discovered that listening to music for 60 minutes a day reduced pain by up to 21%. It also reduced the depression that coexists with chronic pain by up to 25%. Both of these reductions are quite significant. Besides actually lowering pain, listening to music did something else that was interesting: it affected the way the patients perceived their own pain.
Music’s soothing spirit helped 18% of individuals feel less disabled than they had before, suggesting that this form of treatment empowered them in a way. Another eight percent of patients felt that they had greater control over their pain than they used to, compared to the control group (no music) who had no difference in their day-to-day suffering.
This puts a nice clinical spin on an idea that has been held for hundreds, and even thousands, of years by many cultures. Music soothes pain. Ancient writings from Egypt, India, Greece, China, and Italy describe music in healing terms.
After the two World Wars, musicians visited veterans suffering physical or psychological injuries and played for them in the hospital. There was evidence music helped them lessen their pain. Veteran’s hospitals even began hiring musicians solely for this purpose. Colleges started offering music therapy programs. And, finally, music therapy associations cropped up. All of this is to say that if you suffer from chronic pain, try listening to music.