Listening to moving music may reduce pain, study says

  • October 25, 2023

If you are on your way to the dentist, you may wish to play a stirring Adele ballad. According to researchers, not only can our favorite songs be effective analgesics, but moving music may be especially potent. The pain-relieving effects of music have been known for a long time, with recent research suggesting the effect may even occur in infants and other studies revealing that people’s favored songs may have a greater analgesic effect than relaxing music.

Valevicius and colleagues describe in the journal Frontiers in Pain Research how they asked 63 healthy participants to visit the Roy pain laboratory on the McGill campus, where researchers used a probe device to heat an area on their left arm, simulating the sensation of holding a hot cup of coffee against the skin.

During the procedure, the participants listened to either two of their favorite songs, relaxing music selected for them, music that was scrambled, or silence. Participants were asked to rate the intensity and unpleasantness of the pain as the music, sound, or silence persisted.

In comparison to silence or scrambled sound, participants rated their pain as four points less intense and nine points less disagreeable when listening to their favorite songs. The soothing music selected for them did not have this effect.

Valevicius stated that it is improbable that the results are due to speculation. “We found a very strong correlation between the pleasantness of music and the unpleasantness of pain, but no correlation between the pleasantness of music and the intensity of pain, which is an unlikely finding if it were due to placebo or expectation effects,” he explained.