The Effects of Music Listening on Pain and Stress in the Daily Life of Patients With Fibromyalgia Syndrome

Alexandra Linnemann
Mattes B. Kappert
Susanne Fischer
Johanna M. Doerr
Jana Strahler
Urs M. Nater


Music listening is associated with both pain- and stress-reducing effects. However, the effects of music listening in daily life remain understudied, and the psycho-biological mechanisms underlying the health-beneficial effect of music listening remain unknown. We examined the effects of music listening on pain and stress in daily life in a sample of women with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS; i.e., a condition characterized by chronic pain) and investigated whether a potentially pain-reducing effect of music listening was mediated by biological stress-responsive systems. Thirty women (mean age: 50.7 ± 9.9 years) with FMS were examined using an ecological momentary assessment design. Participants rated their current pain intensity, perceived control over pain, perceived stress level, and music listening behavior five times per day for 14 consecutive days. At each assessment, participants provided a saliva sample for the later analysis of cortisol and alpha-amylase as biomarkers of stress-responsive systems. Hierarchical linear modeling revealed that music listening increased perceived control over pain, especially when the music was positive in valence and when it was listened to for the reason of ‘activation’ or ‘relaxation’. In contrast, no effects on perceived pain intensity were observed. The effects of music listening on perceived control over pain were not mediated by biomarkers of stress-responsive systems. Music listening in daily life improved perceived control over pain in female FMS patients. Clinicians using music therapy should become aware of the potential adjuvant role of music listening in daily life, which has the potential to improve symptom control in chronic pain patients. In order to study the role of underlying biological mechanisms, it might be necessary to use more intensive engagement with music (i.e., collective singing or music-making) rather than mere music listening. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)