The student news site of Baruch

The Ticker

The student news site of Baruch

The Ticker

The student news site of Baruch

The Ticker

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Patient-preferred music provides as much relief as painkillers

Wikimedia commons | Karolina Grabowska

A McGill University-based research team found that a patient’s favorite music can have as strong an effect on their pain perception as over-the-counter painkillers, like ibuprofen.

Music has long been known to have emotional, social, and mental benefits. Recently, its analgesic properties have also been revealed. This reveal is evident across the board from as early as the neonate stage to as late as people with Alzheimer’s.

The new research published in Frontiers in Pain Research highlighted the effect of patient preferred music on pain reduction.

The participants were all told to select two of their favorite pieces of music, with the only qualification being that the tracks had to be at least three minutes and twenty seconds long to produce accurate and meaningful data. The researchers determined the first track by asking the participants for their favorite song. The second track was chosen in response to the question of what specific music they would bring to a deserted island.

Later, they were sorted into four groups that listened to either their two favorite tracks, relaxing music selected by the researchers, scrambled music, or silence while looking at a blank monitor screen for seven minutes. While the participants were listening to their respective musical category, they had a probe placed on their left inner forearm that was heated to the level that mimicked a hot cup of coffee being held against the skin.

Researchers reported that patients rated their pain as less intense by about four points and less unpleasant by about nine points on a 100-point scale when listening to the patient-preferred tracks, in comparison to scrambled music and silence. There was no such effect noted with researcher-selected relaxing music.

“We can approximate that favorite music reduced pain by about one point on a 10-point scale, which is at least as strong as an over-the-counter painkiller like Advil [ibuprofen] under the same conditions. Moving music may have an even stronger effect,” first author Darius Valevicius told The Guardian.

Upon post-experiment interview, it was found that patients who selected bittersweet or melancholic music as their two favorite tracks also experienced less pain than those who selected calming or cheerful themes.

“I think it’s something that myself and probably many people intuitively pick up on why we listen to bittersweet, melancholic or even spiritual music,” Valevicius noted.

More research needs to be done on bittersweet music, chills and pain to find conclusive evidence of the relationship.

While not directly being studied, one interesting correlational finding was that people who listened to bittersweet music as their favorite tracks reported more “chills” — operationally defined in the context of this study as the presence of tingling, shivers or goosebumps — which was also associated with lower feelings of unpleasantness from the burning sensation.

Valevicius said that he thought the music-induced chills could be one of the causes behind the pain reduction by way of sensory gating.

Sensory gating is something people do almost every day. They filter out redundant or irrelevant information. In this case, the brain might induce chills as a way of distracting itself from the pain at the physiological level by not letting the sensations be perceived.

Meanwhile, at the cognitive-emotional level, Valevicius hypothesized that pleasantness might affect the emotional value of pain without affecting the sensation.

Music’s general method of action to reduce pain seems to be the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers that morphine mimics the effects of, and catecholamines such as dopamine and epinephrine, which respectively play vital roles in the pleasure pathway and increasing blood flow among other aspects of the fight-or-flight response.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Ticker

Comments (0)

All The Ticker Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *