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Listening to Music Can Reduce Chronic Pain and Depression

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Updated: June 21, 2006

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A study published in the June 2006 issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that listening to music daily reduced chronic pain, made people feel more in control of their pain, reduced depression, and made people feel less disabled by their condition.

How the Study Worked

Researchers conducted a controlled clinical trial with 60 people who were recruited from pain and chiropractic clinics in Ohio. Participants had been suffering from a range of painful conditions (including osteoarthritis, disc problems and rheumatoid arthritis) for an average of six and a half years.
  • Participants were divided into three groups of 20.
  • Two of the groups listened to music on a headset for an hour a day.
  • The third group did not listen to music and served as the control group.
  • All three groups kept a pain diary.
  • The first music group chose their favorite music to listen to. Choices included pop, rock, slow, melodious and nature sounds.
  • The second music group was given relaxing music selected by the researchers.
Before the study began, the participants reported their average pain to be just under six on a zero to ten scale, with their worst pain exceeding nine. Ninety percent experienced pain in more than one part of their body and 95 percent said their pain was continuous.

Results of the Study

  • The music groups reported a 12 to 21 percent reduction in pain. The control group reported that their pain had increased by one to two percent.
  • The music groups reported 19 to 25 percent less depression than the control group.
  • The music groups reported feeling nine to 18 percent less disabled than the control group.
  • The music groups felt they had five to eight percent more power over their pain than the control group.

    In a press release from the Journal of Advanced Nursing, Dr. Sandra L. Siedlecki, nurse researcher at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, stated, “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.”

    Co-author Professor Marion Good from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio added, “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”

    Sources: Siedlecki, Sandra L. and Good, Marion. “Effect of music on power, pain, depression and disability.” Journal of Advanced Nursing Vol. 54.5. June, 2006: 553-562.
    Journal of Advanced Nursing Press Release, 5/24/06

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