Coping, Mental Health

Managing Migraine With Music & Dance

I want music to be like food. A water or wine.” Chinese opera singer Shenyang (whose voice is amazing) describes music as a necessity. It certainly has been in my tangles with migraine. I honestly don’t know how I could have coped, particularly in the last eight years, without the joy music brings. (And I’m not alone in this.)

I’ve found that listening to music I love is more important than choosing a genre typically thought of as relaxing. My all-time comfort album is the first disc of Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds playing a live acoustic show. That’s when the migraines are really bad. Most of the time I listen to hippie jam bands and afrobeat/funk/soul − anything that gets my head bobbing or hips swaying.

This may sound crazy considering that a primary characteristic of migraine is that movement worsens pain. Sometimes “dancing” is almost imperceptible foot tapping, other times even that is impossible. When I dance, especially at live shows, I let go of myself and my self-consciousness completely. That release is therapeutic even in memory. When I dance at home, in the car or in my mind during a migraine, my body remembers that freedom and loosens up.

Dancing with Pain blogger Loolwa Khazzoom believes so strongly in the power of dance as a chronic pain therapy that she teaches classes in it. What about you? Have you found dancing or listening to music to be effective in managing migraine?

I was going to include a photo of me dancing at a Phish show last summer. I share so much on this blog, but the picture of me lost in music is just too intimate.

4 thoughts on “Managing Migraine With Music & Dance”

  1. I get migraines twice a week and one day my buddy and I rode allong with some baller pumpin G-Funk. Just as I was about to tell him to crank the bass down a notch, I noticed my migrain started easing off. I cant explain it but whenever I gt migrains now, I pop on some Roger and zapp type funk and it definatelly helps. I even feel my mustles tingle and losten up for some reason. Maybe something is trying to tell me to move out west. Hehe.

  2. I have a Pain playlist on my MP3 for when I hurt or feel emotional pain. It may make me feel worse but then I can let go. Allows me some wallowing pity party time and hopefully switch to something more uplifting.

    Often during a bad migraine I can’t have any sound whatsoever except our fan. I’m glad this helps you *esp since I’m a musician/music teacher*

  3. Kerrie,

    I totally agree with you about music. I have always enjoyed music, but it wasn’t until after I started dealing with my chronic daily headaches that music became so important to me. Music has a way of seeping into my brain and taking over just a bit when all I thought there was room for the incredible pain I was feeling. It doesn’t lessen my pain, but it does seem to make it a bit more tolerable and for that I’m thankful.

    Keep on dancing


  4. Hi Kerrie,
    Your post is a subject that is very close to my heart, thank you so much for writing about music and the way it helps people cope with pain.

    Honestly I think I would have lost my mind due to migraine pain if I didn’t have music (and dancing at times) to help distract me. During the worst of my migraines it helps keep me sane.

    People don’t understand how music could possibly help during a migraine when noise is one of the things that can worsen a migraine. My neurologist said that music can actualy slow down or interupt the pain signals.

    The very few times I go to a concert I totaly loose myself in the music and dance my little heart out. For a couple of hours I am just me,lost in the beautiful music and dance, not the me with horrible migraines. Music is the gift I give to myself. Music has saved my life.

    Awesome post Kerrie, thank you again for writing about it.

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