An Exploration of Music Listening in Chronic Pain


Psychology of Music




Chronic pain is a major health problem and, as direct treatments often fail to offer lasting pain relief, more effective self-management strategies are needed. There is evidence that music listening can provide relief of pain and accompanying emotional distress in acute settings, primarily through distraction. Less is known about the functions of music listening in chronic pain although survey research has suggested that it could aid distraction, relaxation and sense of control. Building on these findings, this qualitative study explored the narratives of 11 people living with chronic pain about the perceived impact of music listening on pain experience. The results indicated frequent loss of involvement with and enjoyment of music following chronic pain. Despite this, music could improve emotional state and uplift, console, energize and relax the listener and offer a sense of companionship. Conversely, at times it could upset or irritate. Music could act as a distraction from pain, as a cue to movement and as a motivator to exercise. Finally, music could provide a link to memories of a self before pain and escape from a painful body. All these functions have potential for development as effective self-management strategies for chronic pain. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

Music and Health Institute Terms

Chronic Pain; Distress; Emotional Functioning; Mental Health; Music Listening; Music Medicine; Music as Distraction; Pain; Pain Management and Control; Recorded Music Listening; Relaxation; Self-Efficacy; Wellness and Well-Being

Indexed Terms

Listening; Emotional Responses; Relaxation; Pain Management

Study Type

Grounded Theory Study; Qualitative Methods

PubMed ID


Document Type