Music and Pain Management

Posted onCategoriesTCC Blog

This post describes a music therapy session with an elderly gentleman with severe Alzheimer’s and who recently sustained broken vertebrae in his back from a fall.

This was my second visit with him and this day he was writhing with pain. From talking with hospice aids who had just finished cleaning him up they reported details of his extreme discomfort. He would not respond to my voice so I started playing age appropriate popular music. From the start he became quiet and more settled. Then when a song finished he resumed moaning with pain. Every time I would play a song he stopped and became quiet. This session gives me a great opportunity to re-visit information and research about music therapy and pain management. Below is an excerpt from my MT Research Sheet that is available on my site, in the resource center (home pg – bottom left).

Music has been clinically proven to:

    First, if we are experiencing physical or emotional pain we have to utilize many neural pathways to feel that pain. Similarly, when we engage in music listening to act as a positive diversion from pain, for us to attend to the music we again have to utilize many neural pathways to attend to that music… leaving less (neural pathways) to perceive pain. Neural pathways are microscopic nerve endings all through our body that ultimately connect to our brain. An example I’ll use here is lets say we were on our couch with a splitting headache and someone at our door said that a youngster on a bike was just struck by a car outside. Most of us, getting up off the couch, going outside where neighbors and paramedics would be attending to the youngster, would not feel the pain in our head anymore. Why? Because we would be utilizing many neural pathways to perceive the
    commotion outside (task at hand) leaving less to perceive pain.
    And second, regarding music’s psychophysiologic effects, Helen Bonny, PhD (as cited in Tsao et al., 1992), alludes to studies with coronary intensive care patients finding that those who listened to sedative music increased their tolerance for pain and decreased their need for pain medication. Ms. Bonny’s explanation for
    this: “sedative music is capable of stimulating the brain to produce peptides which are natural pain killers.”

Also in the resource center more detailed information about MT and pain management can be found in my MT Pain Management monograph.

So, “Why music??”… because PREFERRED music is an effective positive diversion from physical and emotional pain. Also, it (music) physiologically affects our nervous system while causing chemical reactions to naturally decrease pain.

In upcoming posts I will continue with other music therapy/health and wellness related blog posts.

My prescription this week??? Choose some favorite to listen to (with no distractions) and chill…