Music Therapy

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Gordon Irving, M.D.

Why do music therapy?

Music has been associated with healing the body and mind for centuries. Research has shown that listening to live music results in a much greater effect on physical and psychological states than does recorded music. However the greatest positive medical effects are with patient-preferred music. Listening to, or better yet engaging in focused musical activity is effective in changing the mood, creating relaxation, and can assist in decreasing your pain.

Steps to Get There

  • Choose the music that suits you, your mood and your activity.
  • Do your exercise program while listening to your favorite music. This will create a quick and pleasant passage of time.
  • If you can play an instrument you may have to modify your technique or even get an instrument like an electronic keyboard that does not require as much wrist and finger movement and pressure as a piano to play.
  • Even if you do not own or cannot play a musical instrument, tapping out rhythms, xylophones, hand chimes, rain sticks and other percussion instruments can be used to reduce pain and promote pleasure and relaxation.
  • Do deep relaxed breathing to the rhythm of the music. This encourages regular breathing and relaxation.
  • Close your eyes while listening to music and imagine yourself in a place you would like to go.
    • Visualization is a powerful reprogramming tool
  • Composing songs about the experience of pain and coping with it can be freeing
    • As pointed out in the writing section the more accurately you can convey your frustrations around pain the more effective the exercise.

Helpful hints

  • Choose music that you like and that is appropriate to your activities
  • Make the whole experience as enjoyable as possible
    • If finances are a problem going to a thrift store may allow you to buy an MP3 player to download music you like or buy a musical instrument that you want to play.


  • American Music Therapy Association, 
  • Effect of Music Therapy Among Hospitalized Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain: A Controlled, Randomized Trial. National Center for Biotechnology Information
  • Music Therapy for Pain by Dr. Scott Stoney (Part 1),
  • Music Therapy for Pain by Dr. Scott Stoney (Part 2), 
  • Music Therapy for Pain by Dr. Scott Stoney (Part 3),