More on Music and Pain

Dear Pain Matters blog readers,

More on relaxing music and pain –

A study by Peter Vuust et al (Aarhus University, Denmark) found that in 22 fibromyalgia patients, (1) the intensity of pain as well as (2) its unpleasantness (‘pain affect’) were both reduced after listening to their favourite (self-selected) relaxing music.

In other words, because this self-chosenrelaxing music was considered pleasant by the patients (likely, evoking positive emotions), it resulted in reductions in both the intensity of pain as well as the unpleasantness of pain in fibromyalgia patients.

Consequently, pain management strategies that also include relaxing and pleasant (self-selected) music therapy may enable pain medication dosages to be reduced, hence reducing side effects from medication.

Improvement in mobility was also noted following music therapy.

Another study by Guétin et al also confirmed the benefits of music therapy as an additional pain management strategy for chronic pain patients.  This study involved 87 chronic pain patients including patients with lower back pain and fibromyalgia (reference below).

It is possible that increased parasympathetic nervous system activity results when we listen to our own favourite relaxing and pleasant music (and/or pursue other deeply relaxing therapies/hobbies each day).  This may increase efferent vagus nerve activity that leads to decreased local inflammation….and hence, reduced inflammatory pain (more later).

Further research is warranted whether relaxing and pleasant music therapy leads to specific physiological effects including:

– reduced heart rate,

– increased heart rate variability, and

– reduced respiratory rates/deeper breath intakes

in chronic pain patients.  The consequence of these physiological effects may equate to reduced intensity of pain.

If you’d like to listen to the relaxing songs that were selected by the fibromyalgia patients, they are listed in the back of the paper by Garza-Villarreal et al (Table 2 in the Appendix).  A small sample from this Table 2 is also provided below:

Secreto de Amor

Vivaldi – Four Seasons – Spring Allegro Pastorale

So blog readers, what are your favourite relaxing and pleasant songs?

Until soon,

Sabina Walker

PS  I would like to share the latest press release on this topic (13 August 2015):

Music improves recovery and lowers pain after surgery, says study published in the Lancet


(1) Garza-Villarreal et al; Music reduces pain and increases functional mobility in fibromyalgia; Front Psychol (Feb 2014); 5:90.

doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00090

(2) Music can relieve chronic pain. Science Nordic (March 25, 2014)

(There is also a Danish link.)

(3) Guétin et al; The Effects of Music Intervention in the Management of Chronic Pain: A Single-Blind, Randomized, Controlled Trial;

Clinical Journal of Pain (May 2012); 28(4); Pages 329–337.

doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e31822be973

(4a) Hole et al; Music as an aid for postoperative recovery in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis; Lancet.


(4b) Dreaper; Music ‘reduces pain and anxiety’ for surgery patients; BBC News (13 August 2015).

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