“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”, a line spoken by the great Bob Marley, a man that was never short of a feel good note or lyric, but it does beg the question ‘Can Music Reduce Pain’?
I have always loved music of all genres my whole life, as a matter of fact, in the same year I read Andrea Bocelli’s autobiography, I also flew to Melbourne to watch a Jay-Z concert, which is a contrast in itself. When Life Ready Physio Mt Lawley/Inglewood opened in 2012, I thought that my record turntable at home wasn’t getting nearly enough use, so I decided to have it as a permanent fixture at the clinic, along with my then small record collection. Little did I know the effect it would have on my patients.
Physiotherapists at Life Ready Physio aim to improve quality of life and surpass clients expectations, but in order to do so, techniques utilised can be uncomfortable to say the least. Deep tissue massages, acupuncture and mobilisations to name a few, all come under the “cruel to be kind” category, a phrase often heard and repeated in my treatment room.
I blogged earlier in the year about how it is now proven that swearing can reduce pain, but in the past 12 months, I am also seeing that background music can have a similar effect. It was only a week ago that a patient was undergoing a deep tissue release of her gluteal muscle, a very tender area, when between the ouches, swears, sweats and groans came, “is this Frank Sinatra? I love this song”, and suddenly the moans eased, and instead a discussion on how good the song ‘in the wee small hours’ really is. This has been re-occurring theme over the last 12 months, patients recognizing songs they like, artists they haven’t heard before and sometimes just asking “what is this crap music?” seems to take their mind away from the acute pain they are in, and almost appears analgesic in itself. The great soul legend Maya Angelou said; “Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness” and maybe that’s what patients do, but rather than loneliness, pain and soreness.
So it got me thinking, is there any evidence that music can reduce pain? It appears so.
One study at the University of Utah Pain Research Centre took 143 subjects, they were instructed to listen to music tracks and follow the melodies and tones, and whilst doing this were given safe, experimental electric shocks with fingertip electrodes. The findings showed that the pain reaction from the electric shocks reduced with the increasing focus on the music. The researchers hypothesized that music helps to reduce pain by activating sensory pathways that compete with pain responses, and by engaging cognitive attention. So in a nutshell, listening to music actively, rather than just having it as background noise, reduces pain.
Further findings showed that the more anxious the person was, the more that music helped to reduce pain. This study did not look into whether which types of music worked best, but researchers concluded that the type of music isn’t as important as how well it holds the patients interest. I firmly believe though that the Bagpipe Orchestra or Metallica, may not have had as good an effect as say, Enya. I too can relate to this, with an elderly patient recently mentioning “and this music isn’t making this massage any easier”, and so I ensured Bob Dylan was not put on rotation the next time she was in.
Another study showed music had an effect on not just chronic pain, but also depression. This amazing study took 60 people, who had been suffering from a range of different conditions including osteoarthritis, disc problems and rheumatoid arthritis and they divided these patients into 3 groups:
– Control Group (20 patients) – Did not listen to music
– Group One (20 patients) – Listen to music of their choice for 1 hour a day
– Group Two (20 Patients) – Given relaxation type music featuring jazz, orchestra, harps and synthesizers for 1 hour a day
At the conclusion of the study, the music groups reported their pain had fallen by 12-21% in just one week compared to the control group, and 19-25% experienced less depression.
This is quite remarkable, and showed that not only can music have an immediate effect on pain, as per the first study, but also that music can help reduce chronic pain and depression.
This for me is a justification for why having a physiotherapy clinic filled with music, can only be a positive thing. A simple I-pod dock or radio may help patients before you have even placed a hand on them, and if nothing else a turntable and vinyl record collection can only induce some stimulating conversation. My 15-20 odd record collections has now grown to around 120, with patient donations, and some even bringing their old dusty records to play when they are being treated or doing Pilates classes.
So I guess Bob Marley was mostly right, when the music hits you, you may not feel no pain, but it just might make you feel less pain.
So if you need some physiotherapy to help yours, come on down to Life Ready Physio Mt Lawley, at the Terry Tyzack Aquatic Centre. Come in early and pick a record whilst you wait, or better yet, bring your own and take it for a spin. Records were made to be played, and heres a list of some of the more often played ones at Life Ready Mt Lawley.
If you would like to make an appointment, or just want to talk music, give us a call on 9276 6155 or contact myself at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alabama Shakes – Boys and Girls
Arrange – New Memory
Beach House – Bloom
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Bon Iver – For Emma Forever Ago
Chet Faker – Thinking in Textures
Dirty Three – You Love, You Are
How to Dress Well – Total Loss
Jack Johnson – Brushfire Fairytales
The Middle East – I Want That You Are Always Happy
M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Oliver Tank – Dreams EP
Once – Music From the Sound Track
Radiohead – The Bends
Sigur Ros – Agaetis Byrjun
The XX – The XX
Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bug House
Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
The Beatles – Let It Be
The Beatles – Rock n Roll Music
The Beatles – Hey Jude
The Beatles – ‘65
The Beatles – 1962 – 1966
The Beatles – Beatles For Sale
The Beatles – Greatest
Billy Joel – Glass Houses
Bruce Springstein – Born in the U.S.A
Cream – The Best Of
Deep Purple – 24 Carat Purple
The Eagles – One of those Nights
The Eagles – The Greatest Hits
The Eagles – Hoptel California
The Eagles – Asylum
The Eagles – The Long Run
Eric Clapton – Greatest Hits
Faces – Ooh La La
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
John Cougar Mellencamp – Scarecrow
Jimmy Barnes – For the Working Class Man
Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains The Same
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
Smokie – Midnight Café
Smokie – Bright Lights and Black Alleys
Smokie – The Other Side of The Road
Bob Marley – Legend
Bob Dylan – Greatest Hits
Bob Dylan – Street Legal
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – De Ja Vu
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Neil Young – Harvest
Chuck Daniels – The Get Back E.P
Daft Punk – Discovery
Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes
Michael Jackson – Thriller
Neil Diamond – Serenade
Neil Diamond – His Greatest Hits
Sbtrkt – Sbtrkt
Shapeshifters – Lola’s Theme
Al Green – Greatest Hits
Diana Ross – Greatest Hits
Michael Kiwunaka – Home Again
Nat King Cole – Greatest Hits
Otis Redding – Otis Redding Sings Soul
Tom Jones – Tom Jones Presents
Tony Bennett – The Movie Song Album
Art Blake and Thelonius Monk – The Jazz Messengers
Ella Fitzgerald – Mack The Knife
Frank Sinatra – In the Wee Small Hours of Morning
Frank Sinatra – Look To Your Heart
Frank Sinatra – Sinatra Swings
Frank Sinatra – A Collection Of Favourites
John Coltrane – Blue Train
Louis Armstrong – Hello, Dolly!
Louis Armstrong – Disney Songs
Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue
Miles Davis – Porgy and Bess
The Oscar Peterson Trio – Night Train
Ray Charles – The Genious Of
Ray Charles – Genius Hits the Road
St Germain – Tourist
A Tribe Called Quest – People Instinctive Travels
A Tribe Called Quest – Low End Theory
A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders
Beastie Boys – The Mix-Up
DJ Shadow – End….troducing
Jay-z – Reasonable Doubt
Kanye West – College Drop Out
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, Mad City
Nas – Illmatic
Wu-tang – 36 Chambers