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Posted on 11-08-2013

Music Can Relieve Pain and Stress

“The power of music to integrate and cure. . . is quite fundamental. It is the profoundest nonchemical medication,” said noted author and neurologist Oliver Sacks. More research shows music may indeed have curative properties, including relieving physical pain and stress.

The University of Utah Pain Research Center conducted experiments to determine the ability of music

to alter psychological responses to pain. The people that participated in the study were classified as suffering from higher levels of anxiety about pain than the general population. When they listened to music while receiving low level shocks via electrodes attached to their fingers, participants reported feeling less pain, and those with the highest levels of anxiety benefitted the most. Scientists believe music reduces pain by competing with the same sensory pathways, and this may allow music listeners to divert their focus from pain and engage in more pleasurable stimuli like music.1 It appears music impacts the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) - a part of the brain involved in registering physical pain. As well, this area also influences the autonomic nervous system, which explains why music study participants also saw decreases in their blood pressure and heart rate. In the Utah pain study’s conclusion, the research authors’ remarked, “Engaging in music listening can reduce responses to pain, depending on the person: people who are anxious and can become absorbed in activities easily may find music listening especially effective for relieving pain".

1     Not Just for Adults

Adults are not the only group that benefit from music. Several studies reveal children also respond positively to music when dealing with pain and stress. An overview of this topic was published in Ambulatory Pediatrics and researchers reviewed many music therapy studies and concluded this therapeutic tool was effective in reducing levels of anxiety and pain with children facing medical or dental procedures.

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