Shoulder pain, hip pain, jaw pain…and music?
The relationship between music and pain is extremely vague, and little research has been done on it. But there are a few key ideas that are universally known about the way we perceive pain through music. Here are the basics:
- Distraction. Before we dig into the hard science on the relationship between music and pain (see #2), we cannot ignore what is probably the most common way music can lessen pain: through distraction. When you’re not focused solely on your pain, your mind can play tricks on you and block out certain sensations from your pain receptors. If you don’t have headphones nearby, don’t fret; laughter and conversation work just as well.
- The Spinal Cord. Okay, so you know electrochemical signals? Well, every time you stub your toe, those little buggers hop onto your spinal cord for a fast ride to your brain, which then regurgitates them as the experience of pain. This is true for all painful situations (not just toe-stubbing). Now, how does music play in? Well, when you hear something pleasant, your nervous system releases antibodies that can interrupt or even overpower the pain signals. Pretty awesome, right?
- Good Vibes. Another theory on why music lessens pain harps (get it?) on the fact that music relieves stress. To continue the modus ponens: if stress causes pain, then music must relieve pain. Of course, the fallacy lies in the second premise: the idea that stress causes pain isn’t a cold, hard fact, making the entire argument an appeal to probability. But don’t let that get you down! If music makes you feel good, go for it!
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