Several studies have shown that music can enhance tolerance in acute or chronic pain patients. However, it remains unclear how music affects pain. A recent PLoS ONE study hypothesized that listening to preferred music enhances pain thresholds while listening to disliked music lowers one’s pain tolerance. This study evaluated the effect of preferred music, as opposed to disliked music, on the perception of pain and pain tolerance in healthy volunteers.
What is pain?
Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with or similar to actual tissue damage. Typically, pain originates due to disease, injury, or medical procedures and lasts for a short period or until the main cause of the pain is treated. A transition from acute to chronic pain has been observed in many clinical settings. Reducing the risk of chronic pain is important because chronic pain can adversely affect the quality of life.
Both acute and chronic pain causes a decrease in social, mental, physical, and spiritual quality of life. Often patients with chronic pain get overly dependent on prescription opioids. Since these drugs have many side effects, non-pharmacological pain remedies could be beneficial.
Musical intervention for acute pain treatment
Music could be used as a therapeutic option, complementary to pharmacological interventions. This approach has proved to be an effective strategy for remediating acute and chronic pain after a medical procedure. Needless to say, this is inexpensive, easily accessible, and can be self-administered by the patient.
Recent research has revealed the analgesic effect of music, based on a study where patients with burns were subjected to music as routine wound care therapy. Compared to the control group, patients subjected to music intervention experienced less pain. Music not only reduced pain intensity but also lowered anxiety levels and depression symptoms.
Patients preferred to listen to the music of their own choice. Based on the ice-water hand immersion test results, preferred music increased pain tolerance. Interestingly, in the same study, the participants who were subjected to music they disliked revealed lower pain tolerance.