Listening to SLIPKNOT could ease your headache… but scientists say there’s a catch


  • Researchers found that listening to our preferred tracks can help reduce pain
  • Canadian scientists recruited 63 people who received painful heat to their arm 

Whether it’s Adele, Slipknot or the Bee Gees, we all have our favourite type of music.

Now, researchers have found that listening to our preferred tracks can help reduce the feeling of pain.

Canadian scientists recruited 63 people who received moderately painful heat to their inner forearm – a sensation similar to a hot teacup being held against the skin.

During this, they listened to music excerpts which lasted around seven minutes.

Compared to control tracks or silence, listening to their favourite music strongly reduced pain intensity and unpleasantness in participants.

Whether it’s Adele, Slipknot (pictured) or the Bee Gees, we all have our favourite type of music

Canadian scientists recruited 63 people who received moderately painful heat to their inner forearm – a sensation similar to a hot teacup being held against the skin. Pictured: Adele

Canadian scientists recruited 63 people who received moderately painful heat to their inner forearm – a sensation similar to a hot teacup being held against the skin. Pictured: Adele 

Unfamiliar relaxing tracks, however, did not have the same effect.

The researchers also examined if musical themes had an impact. To do this, they interviewed participants about their emotional responses to their favourite music and assigned themes – energising or activating, happy or cheerful, calming or relaxing, and moving or bittersweet.

Those who experienced moving or bittersweet emotions to their favourite tracks experienced even lower ratings of pain.

Author Darius Valevicius, from the University of Montreal, said: ‘In our study, we show that favourite music chosen by study participants has a much larger effect on acute thermal pain reduction than unfamiliar relaxing music.

‘We also found that emotional responses play a very strong role in predicting whether music will have an effect on pain.

‘We found that reports of moving or bittersweet emotional experiences seem to result in lower ratings of pain unpleasantness, which was driven by more intense enjoyment of the music and more musical chills.’

Decreased sensitivity to pain, also known as hypoalgesia, can occur when the feeling of pain is blocked before it is recognised by the brain.

The researchers said that, although it is not yet entirely understood what musical chills are, they seem to point to a neurophysiological process that is effective at blocking pain signals.

In some people chills can manifest as a tingling sensation, shivers or goosebumps.

The team also pointed to limitations of their study, such as how long participants listen to music samples.

They said listening to relaxing music for longer might have stronger effects than the shorter tracks the participants listened to.

Mr Valevicius added: ‘Especially when it comes to the emotion themes in favourite music like moving/bittersweet, we are exploring new dimensions of the psychology of music listening that have not been well-studied, especially in the context of pain relief.

‘As a result, the data we have available is limited, although the preliminary results are fairly strong.’

The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Pain Research.



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