Four strategies for using music to influence pain

Four strategies for using music to influence pain

8 min. reading time


Louis Zantema

5 January 2020

Louis is a GZ-Psychologist with a great passion for gaming. For him, a game training that offers therapy is the most valuable thing you can develop: especially for pain complaints, which are on the interesting intersection of body and mind. His aim is to make himself dispensable as a therapist.

Music can positively influence pain in many ways. When you feel pain, there are different networks in your brain that 'talk' to each other and cause pain. This happens unconsciously, so you can't just 'think the pain away'. Telling yourself that the pain has to stop, or being told to do so by others, does not help.

Pain has much more to do with feeling than thinking. So it also helps to see how you can change your feelings. And let the music be very suitable for that! Just think about it for yourself, you probably know the feeling that you can suddenly feel a lot happier when one of your favorite songs on the radio. Especially if you have good memories of this song! Because positive feelings do not go hand in hand with feelings of pain, it can have a direct influence on your pain. 

Four strategies for using music in case of pain

Here are the different ways in which you can use music to help you influence your pain.

1. (Learn) to play an instrument. Making your own music is a very powerful way to make other networks in your brain active. Networks that have nothing to do with pain! Your brain also makes a lot of new connections when you (learn to) play an instrument, so that the parts that cause pain disappear into the background even faster. 

Tip: When playing an instrument, make sure that you build up the activity steadily. Certain instruments require a good physical condition!

2. Make a list of music that you have good (childhood) memories of. If you are in pain, or if you are not feeling well, turn on the music. Your brain will automatically link positive feelings to the music that has a lot of meaning for you. 

3. If you want to get the most out of this music, you can do the following: Close your eyes as you listen to the music, and repeat in your mind the beautiful events that belong to the music. This is called visualizing. Visualizing is a very powerful way to evoke positive feelings. 

Tip: The most powerful positive feeling people know is gratitude. The brain networks of gratitude are very far from the networks that cause pain. It can feel a little crazy, but by saying in yourself (or out loud) for which moments you are grateful helps to get the feeling!

4. A nice tip that someone with pain recently wrote about is to use music to determine how long you can do certain activities. Suppose you know that when cleaning, you want to take five minutes of rest every 15 minutes or so. Then make a playlist (for example on Spotify) in which several uplifting songs are played for about 15 minutes. After these 15 minutes there will be 5 minutes of relaxing music, in which you can take a break yourself. After this, you will hear music that fits well with being active, alternated with rest. You can even make different playlists for different activities! 

In short, music offers many possibilities to relieve pain. Conscious use of music can really make a difference!


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