Testing Music Therapy for Pain

In May, I blogged about study that indicated that listening to an hour of music a day can reduce the physical and psychological affects of chronic pain. Participants in the study who listened to music each day reported reduced pain levels up to 21%. They also had up to a 25% reduction in associated depression.

So I’ve been testing it out myself. I haven’t been strict about listening to an hour every day, but most days I know that I have music play for at least an hour and usually more. I’ve even expanded the artists I listen to. My loyalty is still primarily to Dave Matthews (acoustic with awesome guitarist Tim Reynolds, on his solo album, and solo on taped live shows) and the Dave Matthews Band, but I’ve also been listening to a new genre, Men With Husky Voices and Guitars: John Butler Trio, Jack Johnson and Ben Harper.

Back to the point. My pain levels haven’t changed overall, but I feel less pain when music is playing than when it’s off. Just as books distract me from the pain, music lets my attention go elsewhere. And I can still get other things done while I’m engaging in this sort of therapy.

10 thoughts on “Testing Music Therapy for Pain”

  1. I have the same thing. I have constant migraine like headache all day for 5 months. When i eat or chew it goes away a little bit but comes back. Maybe it has to to with tmj?

  2. I recently received a headache and happened to have a pack of gum in my pocket so I popped a peice in and slowly started chewing. Now my Headache didn’t go away, but it did feel a little bit better. The only reason I picked up the gum was because I heard chewing gum relieves stress. And since most headaches are stress related it only made sense that I would select a peice of gum. So my question is. Why do when I look it up in other sites I’m seeing “Gum relieves stress.” and “don’t chew gum with a headache.” when the whole point is to relieve stress? Sort of a contradiction in terms if you ask me. Anyway, I’d just like a little more insight into that.

    And by the way, the gum chewing did help with the headache =) It may just be different from person to person depending on age. Who knows?

  3. I googled “chewing gum helps headache” and found this site. I was wondering if I was the only one who found chewing anything to tremendously help my headache. I’m on the seventh day of a headache that is driving me crazy, and realized about day 3 that I had very little, if any, pain when I ate. Hence, chewing gum popped into my mind. It doesn’t make it go away, but it sure does help.

    I have a tension headache, so the docs think, so I wonder if it has a relaxing effect.
    Anyone know?

    I don’t know why it helps, but you’re at least the fourth person who has told me that chewing gum helps their headaches. I’ve tried it, but haven’t noticed a difference. It’s great that it works for you.


  4. Peter, my wife has a headache that defies diagnosis (so far), and she is also helped by chewing (gum, for instance). Have you found out why your chewing helps you?

    Hans L

  5. To K.

    No idea why chewing gum helps me, nobody seems to know. I’d say give it a shot, you know within 5 minutes if this does something for you.

    My current low dose of Verapamil is not very effective yet and I will surely give it another try to push over 480 mg. I had never heard of such high doses either (up to 1’929 mg) until my headache guru from NY (Dr. Mauskop) suggested this to me.


    Thanks for responding, Peter. I’ll have to try chewing gum.

    Best of luck with Verapamil.


  6. Thanks for the info about I had never heard of it, so went out to take a quick look and couldn’t stop playing with it.

    You’re welcome! I should have warned you that it’s addictive.


  7. The “energy” healers out there would tell you that on the most fundamental level all energy is vibrational in nature. Healing dis-ease in their world is bringing vibrational balance back to the body. When you look at the role music, drumming, chanting, etc. plays in ancient cultures and spiritual traditions it is clear that “music” or vibrational energy has played a healing role throughout the history of man/womankind. The music you love is best but you might also consider a little time with the classics or jazz or some tibetan monk chanting. I also believe that when one is feeling well enough singing and shaking ones booty around the house with the music has even greater value as it is an active participation in the power of vibrational healing. All the best, Tom

  8. Yes….music is probably the best relief for my CDH. Since March this year, I listen to music every day as much as I can. The trick is to put a headset on and let the music – kind of – massage your brain. I had a professional put 5000 songs on my 30 giga bite I-pod. Together with chewing chewing gum, I can reach up to 2 full points less on the 0-10 headache scale. Disadvantage? As soon as I stop, my headache is back.

    My current preventive strategy is Botox 3X over three months (I did one session thus far)and I am experimenting with mega doses of Verapamil, which make my local doctors go crazy (toxicology research indicate serious complications or potential death with high dose Calcium Chanel Blockers). Thus far, I managed only 480 mg as a nasty side effect make my feet swell so much that I can’t fit my shoes anymore (this sounds trivial, but causes a major problem when you need to go to work every day…)

    If anyone has experience with one of my two current preventives, I’d love to hear from you.


    How does chewing gum help? I’ve never heard of that.

    I’ve had three rounds of Botox, but it didn’t help me. I was on a low dose of Verapamil, but it didn’t work either. Why did you decide to try high doses of it? Was it helping at a lower dose?


  9. I stumbled onto your blog a few months ago while looking up some info on nerve stimulation for a friend. I found it interesting and check in every few days to catch up. I have headaches, but not HEADACHES in the same sense you do. I was moved to write in response to your statement that you’ve branched out a little in your music. Try logging on to and listening to their live stream sometime. They’re a member supported radio station with no commercials out of Philadelphia. I live close enough to listen on air, but sometimes click on the listen live option on my computer at work. They play a really ecclectic selection of music — might turn you on to someone else you really like . . .

    Thanks for the tip. I’m not sure if I want to branch out or just think I should. 🙂 I’ll check it out though.

    I’ve been listening to Pandora, where you can put in the bands you like and the database plays songs related. You can give a song a thumbs up or a thumbs down, so it will either play again in the future or not play at all. It’s pretty neat.


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