Page last updated at 23:09 GMT, Sunday, 28 May 2006 00:09 UK

Music 'can reduce chronic pain'

Music is known to aid relaxation

Research has confirmed listening to music can have a significant positive impact on perception of chronic pain.

US researchers tested the effect of music on 60 patients who had endured years of chronic pain.

Those who listened to music reported a cut in pain levels of up to 21%, and in associated depression of up to 25%, compared to those who did not listen.

The Journal of Advanced Nursing study also found music helped people feel less disabled by their condition.

Anything that can provide relief is to be welcomed
Dr Sandra Siedlecki

The patients who took part in the study were recruited from pain and chiropractic clinics.

They had been suffering from conditions such osteoarthritis, disc problems and rheumatoid arthritis for an average of six-and-a-half years.

Most said the pain affected more than one part of their body, and was continuous.

Some listened to music on a headset for an hour every day for a week, while the rest did not.

Among those who listened to music, half were able to choose their favourite selections, the rest had to pick from a list of five relaxing tapes provided by the researchers.

Consistent improvements

Researcher Dr Sandra Siedlecki, of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, said: "Our results show that listening to music had a statistically significant effect on the two experimental groups, reducing pain, depression and disability and increasing feelings of power.

"There were some small differences between the two music groups, but they both showed consistent improvements in each category when compared to the control group.

"Non-malignant pain remains a major health problem and sufferers continue to report high levels of unrelieved pain despite using medication.

"So anything that can provide relief is to be welcomed."

Professor Marion Good, who also worked on the study, said: "Listening to music has already been shown to promote a number of positive benefits and this research adds to the growing body of evidence that it has an important role to play in modern healthcare."

Previous research published in the same journal found listening to 45 minutes of soft music before going to bed can improve sleep by more than a third.

Complex phenomenon

Dr Cathy Stannard, honorary secretary of the British Pain Society, said other studies had shown music could have a positive impact on the perception of pain.

But she said the effects tended to be relatively small, and there was doubt as to whether they were anything other than very short term.

"The perception of pain is very complicated, and is influenced by factors such as emotion, experience and mood," she said.

"If music makes you feel relaxed and chilled out then one might expect it would affect our perception of pain."

Dr Stannard said it was possible that music simply provided a distraction which stopped people concentrating on their pain.

She said it was not surprising that drugs which had a specific action on the body often had a limited effect on a phenomenon as complex as pain.

"We need to start to think outside the box," she said.

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