There is no denying the healing quality of music and its unique capacity to impact the listener emotionally and spiritually. Music brightens, inspires movement, and provides a mechanism through which difficult feelings may be processed and then released. Whether the sounds soothe or open the proverbial floodgate, music can directly and immediately alter the mood of its listener more profoundly than any other agent of change. It should come as no surprise that the positive effects of music can also be utilized as a medicinal tool for pain management, as it has been used as a physical therapeutic since the beginning of time.
Unlike many other forms of pain management, music therapy can reduce symptoms without adverse side effects in nearly every pain patient, if only by way of distraction. Some may suggest that particular music styles are more helpful than others in terms of frequencies stimulating certain sensory responses. That said, in layman’s terms, for every brain there is a song. This versatility of music as a holistic treatment for pain is perhaps its most promising component.
In clinical terms, “[m]usic modulates the brain’s limbic system, triggering numerous accompanying neurochemical effects.” The results can translate into a pain patient requiring less of a dependency on opioid and analgesic requirements. While clinical research studies have clearly demonstrated this to be true, one can simply consider the testimonials of chronic pain patients over thousands of years as evidence of the effectiveness of music therapy. The potential to alleviate symptoms of mental health issues seems obvious, but cancer and stroke patients, recipients of spinal surgeries, patients suffering from cardiac illnesses, and patients in childbirth have all attested to experiencing an alleviation of pain through musical activities.
The multitude of activities through which music can heal cements its rightful and permanent place in the toolbox of any health professional taking an integrated approach to pain management. The pain patient can experience the benefits of music by simply listening to it; however, songs can also be sung and played, lyrics can written and discussed, and the sounds of music can provide a backdrop for meditation or reinvigoration as more therapists incorporate musical interventions in their approach to helping patients manage physical pain.