The Effects of Music on Pain PerceptionSarah Greer
A handout created for PSY 440 (Perception) field trip to a middleschool
Stephen F. Austin State University
What is music therapy?
- Music therapy is the application of music in the treatment of psychological and physical illnesses and disabilities
- Music therapists are musicians trained to asses the emotional well-being and physical health of clients and develop unique musical programs for them
- Clients may listen to music, write music, talk about lyrics, or even perform music
Theories about Music Therapy
Music affects pain perception by:
Find out more about how we feel pain, our brains, andendorphins:
There are some other fun things on this site too!
Origins of Music Therapy
- Music has been used as a form of healing for centuries by cultures around the world, including the Egyptians, Chinese, Indians, Greeks and Romans
- In the United States, music therapy as a profession did not begin to develop until WWI and WWII
- Musicians went to veterans hospitals and played for injured soldiers
- Doctors and nurses noticed the positive effects of music on psychological, physiological, cognitive, and emotional responses of veterans and hospitals began hiring musicians
- A need for trained musicians grew
- Colleges and universities developed programs to train musicians how to apply music in therapeutic ways
- In 1950, music therapists who had worked with veterans, hearing and visually impaired, mentally retarded, and psychiatric patients formed the National Association for Music Therapy which is now know as American Music Therapy Association
Read more about this organization: www.musictherapy.org/faqs.html
Music Therapy Today
- Over 35 million people in the U.S. suffer from some type of pain problem
- Treating chronic pain is expensive &endash; it costs more than $50 billion every year
- Music therapists work in many places: medical hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, psychiatric clinics, day care treatment centers, drug and alcohol centers, residences for developmentally disabled persons, senior centers, nursing homes, correctional facilities, schools, and elsewhere
Read an interview with a music therapist:
- Recent research has focused on people experiencing pain because of physical injury or surgery; pain is hard to measure for research because it is subjective &endash; it is a different experience for every person
- Overall, research supports that music can be helpful in reducing pain; researchers recommend music therapy be offered in addition to pain medication to hospital patients
Example Studies with Music Therapy:
- cancer patients who had bone marrow transplants and received music therapy reported feeling less pain &endash; their transplanted bone marrow also took hold two days faster than similar patients who had not participated in music therapy
- patients who received music and relaxation therapy after surgery reported less pain when walking and resting than patients who did not receive the same therapy
- children who listened to lullabies while receiving an immunization were less distressed than children who did not listen to lullabies
Why is this Research Important?
Music therapy is:
- Inexpensive to hospitals and patients in comparison to normal drug therapies
- Non-invasive - patients don't have to get shots
- No side effects &endash; some pain medications can cause nausea, hallucinations, vomiting, etc.
- Personal &endash; music can reach a person on a level physical treatments cannot
Return to Class frontpage.