Listening to Music Can Aid in Pain Relief, Especially When Anxiety Involved
Listening to music can provide a distraction that can help to relieve pain finds a new study published by researchers from the University of Utah Pain Research Center in The Journal of Pain, a publication of the American Pain Society.
For the study, 143 subjects listened to music tracks, following the melodies and listening for deviant tones. During the music tasks, the volunteers were given safe levels of pain shocks using fingertip electrodes. While listening to music and distracted by the activities, the volunteers experienced less pain during the shocks
When the brain senses injury to the body, pain signals that begin in the somatosensory cortex and the hypothalamus work their way downward through the “pain pathway”, ultimately sending signals that provide pain relief. There are also signals that stimulate the release of neurotransmitters such as endorphins, dynorphins, and enkephalins. Music appears to help in pain reduction by activating these sensory pathways.
Music is one alternative therapy that is studied for pain relief, primarily for its ability to distract the patient from the discomfort. This new research finds that it is especially beneficial to those with high anxiety levels about the pain, such as when doctors are giving vaccines or performing painful procedures that must be done without anesthesia. Music also has the ability to soothe, inspire, energize and uplift a person, which may be beneficial to those with chronic pain who need to learn coping techniques.
Currently, there are approximately 5,000 trained music therapists that work with patients in pain management centers, hospitals, clinics, senior centers, and rehabilitation facilities in the United States. Those who use music therapy to cope with chronic pain tend to require less pain medication, have significant improvements in clinical markers such as respiration, blood pressure, and heart rate, and also tend to have an improved quality of life.
David H. Bradshaw, Gary W. Donaldson, Robert C. Jacobson, Yoshio Nakamura, C. Richard Chapman. Individual Differences in the Effects of Music Engagement on Responses to Painful Stimulation. The Journal of Pain - December 2011 (Vol. 12, Issue 12, Pages 1262-1273, DOI: 10.1016/j.jpain.2011.08.010)
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