Entrainment Music and Pain Reduction
In 1985 a gentleman named Rider (1) set out to study the effects of various genres of music on their vividness and activity level of suggested imagery, the potential for pain reduction, and the means to reduce muscle tension.
23 (twenty-three) patients with injuries to their spinal cords were registered at a spinal pain clinic and enrolled in a randomized, counter-balanced, double-blind designed study. For the next seven days patients received seven musical tapes one every day.
The variables measured before and after musical treatment were:
2. EMG (muscle tension measured through electromyography)
3. Imagery vividness
4. Imagery activity
5. Musical preference
All results except EMG were procured through self-report-questionnaires. The musical sessions consisted of 20 minutes divided into 9 minute muscle-relaxation, 1 minute imagery instruction, and 10 minutes of music. The imagery session instructed the patients to imagine their pain being subdued by their endorphin system. The seven different genres of music were:
1. Trancelike, habituating music like Steve Reich's "Music for Mallets, Voices, and Organ." Synthesized music reproducing crystal goblets on a guitar synthesizer. This music is highly monotonous with no mood shifts at all or an ending peak.
2. Impressionist music such as Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" and Pat Metheny's "If I could" (jazz) also without any mood shifts.
3. Entrainment musical conditioning; music consisting of synthesized and acoustic guitar showing a great mood shift from unpleasant to pleasant, including a climax in pleasant mood after 3 minutes. This was done by shifting tempo from 7/8 to 4/4 meter.
4. Twenty minutes of muscle relaxation and pain relief imagery without music, preceding musical imagery.
5. One tape with patient's chosen music with no imagery or suggestion.
There were remarkable effects of music intervention treatment for pain. (p=0.006). Entrainment music showing the most effective method for pain reduction (p=0.005). Patient preferred music had the least effects on pain reduction. Post-treatment EMG levels of stress decreased dramatically by music interventions (p<0.05). Again entrainment music was the most effective intervention for muscle tension (EMG) reduction (p<0.05).
Vividness nor activity were greatly affected by music condition. However, the highest imagery scores were obtained again in the entrainment condition.
The order of most effective music in pain reduction:
4. Crystal Stimulation
It must be noted that the most effective music for pain reduction (entrainment, Reich) were the least preferred types of music and that the preferred type of music was the least effective Intervention! One could conclude from that, that the music you choose to relax may reflect current mood rather than the most effective in shifting mood state and affecting endorphin production.
Conclusion and Comments:
The authors concluded that entrainment music which shifted mood state from tension to relaxation and negative to positive, was the most potent medium for pain reduction and EMG levels. It was also concluded that entrainment-mediated imagery solicited psychologic and possibly physiologic pain relief mechanisms.
Next time you want to unwind with music it might be in your best interest to pick the exact opposite than what you are in the mood for? Just a thought.
Up next. Could music therapy delay aging? Surgeons listen to music all the time in the operating room. How does the music affect their work on your body? And then some studies showing conditions for which music therapy might NOT be what the doctor ordered.
1. Rider M. Entrainment Mechanisms are Involved in Pain Reduction, Muscle Relaxation, and Music-Mediated Imagery. J Music Ther 22(4). (1985):183