We’ve all felt the soothing power of music, but did you know it might also help reduce physical pain? Science has been pretty consistent on the analgesic-like power of music to reduce the perception of pain. Now, researchers have pinpointed the type of music that’s most effective.
What type of music is most effective against pain?
The researchers performed some interesting experiments focusing on inducing hypoalgesia in a group of people using different kinds of music. Hypoalgesia is a medical condition that makes a person less sensitive to pain.
To determine the most effective pain-reducing melodies, participants were exposed to the kind of pain you’d feel from a hot cup of tea. While undergoing this mild pain, they listened to various soundtracks: personal favorites, silent tracks, and general relaxing tunes typically recommended for those suffering from chronic pain.
The participants spent the same amount of time for each pain-music pair, roughly seven minutes. The results? Those who listened to their favorite music experienced a significant reduction in perceived pain. Unfamiliar relaxing tracks and control tracks of silence did not produce the same pain-relieving effect.
“In our study, we show that favorite music chosen by study participants has a much larger effect on acute thermal pain reduction than unfamiliar relaxing music,” said Darius Valevicius, one of the researchers and a Ph.D. student at the University of Montreal.
Best among the favorites
The research didn’t stop there. During the study, researchers realized that emotional reactions to a soundtrack also significantly influence the impact of music on the perception of pain.
Participants shared the emotions they felt while listening to their favorite tracks, which were classed into moving/bittersweet, happy/cheerful, and calming/relaxing. They also rated how unpleasant they felt the pain while listening to differently-themed tracks.
“We found that reports of moving or bittersweet emotional experiences seem to result in lower ratings of pain unpleasantness, which was driven by more intense enjoyment of the music and more musical chills,” Valevicius notes.
Simply put, your favorite bittersweet/emotional tracks could be the best at numbing some of the physical pain.
However, the study has some limitations. The research only looked at short-term listening and focused on heat-induced pain. Further studies are needed to see if bittersweet tracks can combat other types of pain over longer periods. Therefore, more research is required to answer this question and to further validate the findings.