Listening To Music May Distract Those With Anxiety From Aches And Pains

Researchers at the University of Utah's Pain Research Center have released the results of a new study that reinforces the notion that music can reduce feelings of pain. In particular, the Utah study examined the distracting effect that music can have on patients with severe anxiety and how that distraction translates into a lessening of pain.

Published in the December issue of the Journal of Pain, the Utah study found a direct correlation between the amount or level of pain perceived and the amount of concentration a music task demanded of the listener. The scientists involved hypothesize that the music directly competed with the same neural pathways that carry pain signals. Engaging these pathways with music tended to "drown out" the pain.

Interestingly, the research also indicates that anxious people are more able to concentrate on the music, and so gain a greater pain reduction benefit than less anxious listeners. It is assumed that anxiety itself increased the participants' ability to focus on the listening task, so those with less anxious were more likely to have their minds wander.

Doctors should still consider each patient's individual therapeutic needs before recommending music therapy, but the researchers hope to show that activities besides music can have the same pain-relieving qualities. In theory, they say, anything that sufficiently engages the mind—anything an anxious person can "lose themselves in"—can produce the same effect.

Source: University of Utah
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