Music Eases Chronic Pain: Simon & Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac Songs Among The Most Relaxing

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Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" was one of the songs that helped people with chronic pain relax and feel better. fmerenda, CC BY-SA 2.0

Music may be the best medicine for people with chronic pain, according to a new study. British pharmacists have determined that for some people, tracks from pop-folk icons like Robbie Williams and Simon & Garfunkel help promote relaxation and well-being. As a result, retailers are now piloting the sale therapeutic albums at locations across the U.K.

The study, which was commissioned by LloydsPharmacy, investigated the influence of music on pain management. A survey of 1,500 people living chronic pain showed that about 41 percent found it easier to relax and feel better while listening to their favorite songs. The top painkilling tracks were “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel, “Angels” by Robbie Williams, and “Albatross” by Fleetwood Mac.

"There are lots of different ways of managing pain, not only with medicines but also with lifestyle changes such as moderate exercise and relaxation,” said pharmacist Andrew Mawhinney of LloydsPharmacy. “After speaking to many people who are living with pain we were interested to learn just how many found music beneficial, which is why we're now trialing the use of music within our pain service in some of our pharmacies."

According to the researchers, the link between music and pain management was particularly pronounced among study participants ages 16 to 24. Overall, the most popular genre was pop music, which 21 percent of participants found to be the most effective, the Telegraph reported.

Professor David Bradshaw of the University of Utah Pain Management Center said that the results make sense, as people living with chronic pain tend to find relief in activities that divert their attention.  "People in pain should try to find some activity to get fully engaged in,” he explained. "Listening to favorite music is excellent for that because it can involve both thoughts and feelings. No matter how anxious you may feel, if you can get absorbed in the music this can help with your pain.”

“Choose music you like and know well, humming or singing along can help you engage in listening and distract you from your pain,” he added.

The current study recalls the results of a similar research effort published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing in 2006. Aside from a reduction in chronic pain, the authors found that music could also alleviate psychiatric symptoms in patients living with depression.

Source: Effect of music on power, pain, depression and disability. Sandra L Siedlecki, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Ohio, and Marion Good, Case Western University, Ohio. Journal of Advanced Nursing. Volume 54.5, pages 553 to 562.

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