Listening to moving music may reduce pain, study says
Before going to the dentist, consider listening to a lively Adele song. Studies suggest that our favorite music can act as effective pain relievers, and upbeat tunes may have even stronger effects.
Research has shown that music has been utilized as a way to alleviate pain for a significant amount of time. Recent studies have indicated that this effect may also be present in infants, while other research has revealed that an individual’s preferred music could have a more potent pain-relieving impact than intentionally selected relaxing music.
According to researchers, there is proof that the emotional reactions elicited by music are also significant.
According to Darius Valevicius, the lead researcher from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, listening to preferred music can decrease pain by an estimated one point on a 10-point scale. This effect is comparable to that of an over-the-counter pain reliever like Advil (ibuprofen) in similar circumstances. Additionally, playing music may have an even greater impact.
In the Frontiers in Pain Research journal, Valevicius and team documented their study involving 63 individuals without any health issues. These participants were brought to the Roy pain laboratory on the McGill campus, where a probe was utilized to apply heat to a specific area on their left arm, creating a sensation similar to holding a hot cup of coffee against the skin.
During the procedure, the subjects were exposed to two of their preferred songs, calming music chosen specifically for them, jumbled music, or no sound.
As the auditory stimuli, including music, sound, or silence, persisted, the subjects were prompted to assess the severity and discomfort of their pain.
Every individual went through each scenario for approximately seven minutes, during which time there were eight instances of pain stimulation and eight evaluations.
After the listening session, participants were prompted to provide their ratings for the music’s enjoyment, their level of emotional activation, and the amount of “chills” they felt – a sensation associated with sudden emotions or increased focus, which can be experienced as tingling, shivers, or goosebumps.
The findings show that when participants listened to their favorite songs, they perceived the pain as four points lower on a 100-point scale and nine points less unpleasant compared to when they were in silence or heard scrambled sound. However, the use of relaxing music specifically chosen for them did not have the same impact.
According to Valevicius, it is improbable that the outcomes can be attributed to anticipation. He stated, “We observed a highly significant relationship between the pleasantness of music and the unpleasantness of pain, but no relationship between the pleasantness of music and the intensity of pain. This would be an unexpected result if it was solely due to the placebo or expectation effects.”
Additional research found that listening to music that caused more chills was linked to lower levels of pain intensity and unpleasantness. This connection was stronger when the music was perceived as more pleasant.
According to Valevicius, the distinction in how chills and pleasantness affect pain intensity suggests that there are two potential mechanisms at play. Chills may have a physical effect on sensory gating, blocking pain signals from traveling upward. On the other hand, pleasantness may influence the emotional perception of pain without directly affecting the sensation, possibly impacting cognitive and emotional processes in the prefrontal brain regions. However, further research is necessary to fully assess and validate these theories.
The ratings for both the pleasantness of music and the experience of chills were higher for emotional or melancholic songs, but the specific impact of these tunes on pain was not certain.
The scientists state that it is currently unknown whether playing different types of music would evoke the same sensation of chills in individuals who do not typically enjoy it. It is also unclear if those who do enjoy such music are more susceptible to experiencing musical chills.
Additionally, the researchers state that due to the small sample size of the study, certain correlations may not have been able to be identified. Furthermore, it is possible that the duration of the relaxing music was not long enough for any noticeable effects to occur.
According to Dr. Brendan Rooney from the school of psychology at University College Dublin, he is not convinced that there is a unique quality to music itself. He believes that participants’ perception of pain while listening to a particular track may impact their reported feelings.
Rooney mentioned that his team’s research aligns with the findings presented in the paper, showing that music selected by individuals has a more powerful pain-relieving impact. He believes that this, along with their own findings, proves that those suffering from pain should have the ability to personalize their own pain-relief through music and other forms of entertainment.