While pain from some orthopedic conditions might only be a temporary inconvenience, there are issues with the musculoskeletal and nervous system that result in pain persisting beyond 3-6 months. Chronic pain treatments such as applying heat or ice, injections directly into the affected nerve, and the use of pain and anti-inflammatory drugs don’t always completely eliminate pain. One way patients may be able to effectively shift their thoughts away from their discomfort is with music therapy.
Changing Pain Perception
The degree of discomfort experienced with chronic pain is largely subjective, or based on what a patient perceives. Listening to pleasurable music activates other parts of brain beyond the area involved with pain perception such as the hippocampus and part of the frontal lobe, which can change how a patient listening to music interprets their pain.
Chronic pain can be perceived as being more severe when patients are stressed or anxious about their condition. Music that’s especially calming in nature can lower blood pressure and reduce the production of stress hormones. Experiencing less stress sometimes allows patients to benefit more from their medications and other recommended pain management treatments.
Various studies suggest a noticeable connection between certain music an ability to enjoy a better night of sleep. Slower music, in particular, tends to slow down the heart rate enough to make it easier to fall off to sleep. For people with chronic pain, this extra help powering down for the night may allow patients to go into the deeper stages of sleep where healing of tissues occurs.
Living with chronic pain increase the risk of experiencing depression for some individuals. Disabling pain may lead to self-esteem issues and concerns about how lingering discomfort could impact all aspects of life. Listening to music won’t necessarily make such concerns go away, but focusing on enjoyable sounds sometimes provides enough of distraction to have a positive effect on mood. There’s also growing research suggesting that either listening to music or creating it can have therapeutic mental health benefits that may extend to people with chronic pain.
In a study of patients recovering from spine surgery, subjects who participated in music therapy reported a noticeable decrease in their perception of pain, a goal achieved without the need for additional medication. Music therapy is a form of mental distraction most patients with chronic pain can easily do on their own by simply bringing their favorite tunes with them to physical therapy sessions or listening to soothing rhythms or melodies at home to avoid thoughts of pain.