Researchers from the University of Montreal examined the possibility that a positive emotional valence (pleasant feelings) contributes to music-induced analgesia.

First, the details.

  • 19 participants evaluated the warmth or pain induced by 40, 45.5, 47, and 48.5 degrees C thermal stimulations applied to the skin of their forearm.
  • All the while they listened to pleasant and unpleasant musical excerpts matched for their level of arousal (relaxing-stimulating).

And, the results.

  • Compared to a silent control condition, only the pleasant excerpts produced significant reductions in pain intensity and unpleasantness.
  • Furthermore, pain decreased significantly with increases in the participants’ reports of music pleasantness.
  • In contrast, unpleasant excerpts did not modulate pain significantly, and warmth perception was not affected by the presence of pleasant or unpleasant music.

The bottom line?
The results are placed in perspective by a 2004 Cochrane review that concluded, “Music should not be considered a first line treatment for pain relief as the magnitude of its benefits is small.”

However, the research conducted to that point did find that music reduced pain, increased the number of patients who reported at least 50% pain relief, and reduced requirements for morphine-like analgesics.”

The Cochrane reviewers cautioned that the clinical relevance of music for pain relief in clinical practice was unclear. The authors from Montreal do not share their reservations: “These findings call for the integration of music to current methods of pain control.”

4/21/08 21:59 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.