Music Therapy for Pain: A Healing Mechanism

From enhancing mood to reducing stress, music as medicine has become a widely accepted method for promoting optimal wellness. Recently, researchers have taken the healing power of music one step further: they’ve begun to explore the link between music and pain management, and have come up with some positive results.


Music for Pain Management

We all know what it’s like to experience pain. What’s more, a lot of us struggle with chronic pain—pain persisting for more than three months. Naturally, there are many strategies out there to manage and cope with chronic pain, with solutions ranging from medications to various kinds of therapies, such as mind and body techniques. 

Music therapy for pain is one of the more creative approaches that has gained traction in the past few years. Using evidence-based pain-relieving music interventions, licensed professionals work with their patients to achieve individualized goals, such as reducing anxiety or improving mood. Since chronic pain is associated with symptoms beyond physical pain, medical professionals now categorize pain treatment as needing a multidisciplinary approach. Because music therapy targets biopsychosocial symptoms, it’s becoming increasingly recognized as a legitimate and holistic method for managing pain. 


Music Therapy for Pain

Music therapy is cost-effective, noninvasive, and has a long history of success, going back to its beginnings as a professional healing modality in the 1940s.

Board-certified music therapists undergo rigorous training programs to become licensed. Once certified, they usually work in 20–50 minute sessions, creating personalized music-making and music-listening experiences to best suit the needs of their patients.  

The patient experience for those dealing with pain varies dramatically from one person to the next, so there’s no singular way to describe a typical music therapy session. However, a common approach involves playing live music for patients and having the patients choose the genres and melodies they want to listen to. Others may benefit from writing songs, analyzing lyrics, or singing and playing instruments themselves.


music for pain management


Healing Music for Pain: Effectiveness and Availability

Though music therapy doesn’t reduce the physical effects of pain, it does reduce the perception of pain. Generally, listening to or making music can distract patients from their pain, support breathing and relaxation, and improve their sleep. Researchers have even found that listening to healing music for pain can improve patients' overall quality of life through enhanced self-efficacy, motivation, empowerment, and social engagement. 

Today, music therapy for pain is widely available and open to all age groups. In addition to treating chronic pain and physical disabilities, it’s been used for people with developmental and learning disabilities, mental health needs, substance abuse problems, and aging-related conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Music therapists work in a number of different areas, from hospitals to rehab centers—and there’s no shortage of them.


The Role of Everyday Music Listening in Pain Management

Despite its practicality, hiring a licensed music therapist may not be in the cards for everyone. If you’re dealing with pain but don’t want to go through the trouble of paying for music therapy, you can still use the healing power of music to your advantage.

Incorporating music into your self-care routine is an easy step to achieving pain relief. Though it’s up to you to determine how you want to structure it, here are some tips for conducting your own music therapy session:

  1. Take a few minutes to generate a list of songs that are soothing to you. Remember that what’s soothing to you may not be soothing to others. While some prefer relaxing music, others may find relief in more upbeat music, like hip-hop.
  2. As you listen to your playlist, focus on your breathing. Try to synchronize your breathing to the beat of the song. Take slow and steady breaths, and work on blocking out all other thoughts.
  3. As you concentrate on your breathing, start thinking about the different sounds in the song. Pay attention to the melody, instrumentation, and lyrics (if any) and how they blend to create that specific musical experience.
  4. After each song, take some time to reflect on your listening experience, noting how the sounds resonated with you. Focus on the positive feelings that emerged from listening to the song, and try to hold onto those feelings as you transition back into your daily routine. 

Music for pain management can serve as a daily coping mechanism. Whether done through a music therapist or taking the initiative yourself to make music a part of your self-care routine, the power of healing music for pain can be a helpful tool for leading a more comfortable life.

Feed Media Group (FMG) is on a mission to connect individuals with the healing power of music. Our audio cloud powers music for apps in fitness and wellness through our plug-and-play music API integrations. Learn more about how we are helping businesses and apps create functional music experiences.