Book now

Can Music Help Your Pain?

“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


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

Hip Hop/RnB

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




Book an appointment now to get started on your health journey

Moving you toward your best quality of life.

Enquire Now

Share this article via