The Analgesic Effect of Music on Cold Pressor Pain Responses: The Influence of Anxiety and Attitude Toward Pain

S. Choi
S. G. Park
H. H. Lee


OBJECTIVE: The analgesic effect of music has been recognized for pain relief, but individual differences and adjuvant methods are poorly understood. This study employed a cold-pressor task (CPT) to observe the effects of music (without considering personal preferences) on pain experience and how this is affected by individuals' general (and pain-specific) anxiety symptomology. METHODS: Fifty participants were each presented with three conditions (randomized into different orders): music-listening, news-listening, and no sound (control). Pain responses, including pain tolerance time (PT), pain intensity (PI), and pain unpleasantness (PU), were assessed using CPT and compared with a 3x3 crossover design. Participants also completed the anxiety sensitivity index (ASI-16) and pain anxiety symptom scale (PASS-20). RESULTS: CPT pain responses during the music intervention were significantly different from responses during the news intervention and control conditions, respectively. Among participants with normal anxiety levels, pain responses during the music condition differed significantly from the news and control groups; this was not the case for the anxiety risk group. Pain responses during the music condition for those with normal levels of pain-specific anxiety differed significantly from the control, but this was not the case for the risk group. CONCLUSIONS: Music appears to influence diminished pain responses relative to the absence of an intervention. However, this was not the case when individuals listened to news stories. These effects were more robust for individuals experiencing normal levels of general and pain-specific anxiety. Thus, music (even outside one's own preferences) was an effective adjuvant method for managing pain, especially among those without significant anxiety symptomology.