How to use music therapy to relieve arthritis pain


Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours, said Sir Elton John and indeed music is like an exercise which heals pain, depression, and disability associated with arthritis.

A research conducted at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio reported in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that people, who listened to music for an hour a day for a week, reported decreased pain (about 20 percent), depression and disability as compared with people who did not listen to music. Non-listeners actually experienced an increased pain.

Furthermore, a study published in the March 2012 issue of Clinical Rheumatology had pointed out the therapeutic benefits of music. It found that people, who listened to music while undergoing joint lavage for knee osteoarthritis, experienced less pain and anxiety and lower heart rates during the procedure as compared with those who did not.

Brain’s Response to Pain

Your brain reacts to the music you listen to and it stimulates the brain areas responsible for releasing body’s natural painkillers. The mentioned brain area is the periaqueductal gray (PAG) area in the mid-brain, which is where we have our own opioid system .

When you listen to music, your brain’s pleasure centre gets aroused and the levels of brain chemical dopamine increases. Dopamine produces feelings of enjoyment, and substance P, which ceases pain.

Imaging scans have also shown that music can stop the area of the brain called the amygdala, the function of which is to bring forth negative emotions such as stress. Music distracts you from your pain, is pleasurable and has no side-effect so, there is no valid reason for not listening to music. It actually works as self-medication just like deep breathing and relaxation.

Slow-tempo Music is Good to Relieve Pain

Classical music has been found effective in easing pain from chronic osteoarthritis, according to a research by the Florida Atlantic University College of Nursing in Boca Raton, Fla. It distracts the listeners and decreases the levels of pain and stress experienced by them.

Music therapists have also found breathing-like pattern with music when heart muscles synchronize to the beat of music. When classical music rhythms mimic the average resting heart – approximately 70 beats per minute – the soothing sounds actually help to slow fast-beating hearts.

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