Crank up the music to tone down pain

In Bob Marley’s “Trenchtown Rock,” he famously sings, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.

And according to the latest research, these lyrics seem to ring true, particularly when it comes to chronic pain (defined as pain that lasts more than 12 weeks).

If you live with nagging chronic pain yourself, you know that it can be quite a savage beast. And because of that, you might be skeptical about the ability of music therapy to deliver relief.

But cast those doubts aside, because a surprising body of evidence reveals that music does indeed relieve pain — and sometimes to a significant degree.

The secret is in choosing the right type of music…

Processing music in place of pain

Some time ago, I told you about a highly successful program where music therapy is used to bring comfort to patients suffering from advanced dementia. This program often prompts joyful reactions from dementia patients who are mostly unresponsive.

Seeing how music could strike an emotional chord, even in someone who has lost so much of their mental faculties, prompted more research on music’s therapeutic effects on the brain.

So researchers from the University of Utah set out to see if certain types of music could match the effects of pain medication.

And these researchers found the answer by observing music’s effect on inflammation in a three-week mouse trial.

Most mouse studies are unremarkable, but when the Utah researchers tested a Mozart playlist on mice given inflammatory pain tests, ibuprofen combined with music was an astounding 93 percent more effective in reducing inflammation compared to ibuprofen alone.

In humans, music might have a similar anti-inflammatory effect. But in his Pain-Free Life Protocol, Dr. Fred Pescatore explains that there’s also another process at work.

He explains: “Many of the same brain pathways that process pain also process music. When you are actively engaging with music, emotional responses are triggered which compete for attention with the pain responses.

“Since you only have so many resources to call upon, the pain gets pushed to the background and the music takes precedence.”

Climbing down the pain-rating scale

It might seem like a stretch to even think of comparing music therapy to opioid drugs in treating chronic pain. But Dr. Pescatore cites a Harvard Medical School study where participants with acute or chronic pain were able to lower their opioid dosage, and in some cases skip medication altogether, when they accessed music therapy on their smartphones.

And other research has been just as impressive.

Dr. Pescatore notes that there have been scores of studies that tested music therapy as a pain reliever.

In one meta-analysis, researchers looked at more than 70 clinical trials that examined the effect of music therapy on surgical patients.

Dr. Pescatore says, “Researchers found this particular group of patients who listened to music needed much less pain medication. In fact, listening to music dropped their pain factor down two notches on the 10-point Numeric Pain Rating Scale (NPRS).” On this scale, zero equals “no pain” and ten indicates “worst pain imaginable.”

Two points may not seem like a significant drop, but it’s very close to the same relief in one dose of painkillers.

Wide-ranging pain relief

Dr. Pescatore notes several other investigations that reveal the pain relieving effects that come with music therapy…

  • Biopsies: He says, “When Chinese researchers analyzed the results of nine studies on music therapy and biopsy, they found the therapy helped reduce post-biopsy pain — and also lowered anxiety and blood pressure.”
  • Fibromyalgia: In one fibromyalgia trial, two weeks of regular music listening reduced pain levels by 25 percent. In another study, participants said music gave them a sense of greater control over their pain.
  • Burn victims: In a meta-analysis of 17 studies on burn patients, those who received music therapy reported a 26 percent greater pain reduction compared to “non-music interventions.” And Dr. Pescatore adds that music therapy was also highly effective in relieving anxiety — a trend that runs throughout music therapy research.
  • Chronic pain: In an analysis of 14 chronic pain studies, music reduced both pain and depression. And Dr. Pescatore adds, “They also found music had the greatest effect when the patient — not the physician or any other health professional — chose the music.”

That last detail is of the utmost important.

Dr. Pescatore stresses that to be effective, music therapy has to “actively engage” with the patient. He says, “You’ll only get the pain-relieving benefits from whatever music you like — whether it’s classical, rock n’ roll, or Sinatra crooning.”

So choose your favorite playlist and let the music (and pain relief) play on.

Refer to Dr. Pescatore’s Pain-Free Life Protocol for even more recommendations on dietary, supplement, lifestyle, and other highly effective, non-drug interventions for complete pain relief. Click here to learn more about this unique online learning tool, or to enroll today.


“Mice and Mozart: Can Music Make Pain Meds More Effective?” Pain News Network, 3/27/19. (