If you suffer from chronic neck pain, you know how debilitating it can be. Simple movements like turning your head or looking down can cause severe discomfort. Neck pain can interfere with work, recreation, and sleep. While medications provide some relief, they come with side effects and don’t treat the root causes. There are many natural remedies for neck pain that avoid side effects. One such remedy that is gaining popularity is music therapy.
Research shows music can significantly reduce neck pain and increase range of motion. Listening to soothing music triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers. Music also reduces stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which contribute to muscle tension and pain. Because music is non-invasive, it has no negative side effects. With the right music and listening routine, you can gain real relief from neck pain.
How Music Therapy Reduces Neck Pain
There are a few key ways music alleviates neck pain:
Reduces Muscle Tension
When muscles are tense and contracted, it compresses nerves and decreases blood flow. This causes pain, limited mobility, and more muscle tension. Music has a profound relaxing effect on the mind and body. Soothing tones lower blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety levels. As you relax both mentally and physically, muscles loosen up. This reduces pressure on joints and nerves. Range of motion increases as muscles become more flexible.
Distracts from Pain
Music provides a positive distraction that takes your mind off the pain. Focusing on neck discomfort tends to intensify it. Listening to music absorbs your attention, making you less aware of the pain. Your perception of pain decreases even though the sensory input remains unchanged. In this way, music therapy does not eliminate the source of pain, but it makes you less attentive to it.
Chronic pain has a major impact on mood and emotions. As pain persists, it often leads to depression, anger, irritability, and fatigue. This stress and negative mood increase muscle tension, creating a vicious cycle. Uplifting music elevates mood by releasing dopamine and serotonin in the brain. This boosts energy, optimism, happiness, and relaxation – all of which help break the chronic pain cycle. The less depressed and stressed you feel, the less your neck muscles will constrict.
Inflammation around the neck’s soft tissues and joints often contributes to chronic pain. Music has been found to decrease systemic inflammation. One study showed patients who listened to music before surgery had lower levels of inflammatory proteins compared to patients who did not listen to music. Less inflammation means less irritation of nerves and reduced pain sensations.
Improves Sleep Quality
Poor sleep goes hand in hand with chronic pain. The inability to get a good night’s sleep exacerbates neck pain. Soothing music helps many people fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and feel more refreshed upon waking. Improving sleep quality enables your body to heal faster while also decreasing pain.
Your brain releases endorphins when you hear enjoyable music. Endorphins act as natural pain relievers that block pain signals and improve your mood. One study found that listening to music increased endorphin concentrations by 200-300%. Endorphins also promote relaxation and healing. Music therapy boosts your body’s own production of this powerful pain-blocking substance.
When to Use Music Therapy for Neck Pain
Music therapy can relieve neck pain caused by:
- Muscle tension, muscle strains, pinched nerves
- Injuries like whiplash
- Poor posture
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal arthritis
- Herniated discs
It is best to avoid music therapy when neck pain results from:
- Recent injuries that require immobilization
- Vascular issues like blood clots
- Infections like meningitis
If your pain has an identifiable medical cause, consult your physician before trying music therapy.
How to Use Music Therapy
To use music for neck pain relief, set aside at least 20-30 minutes per day to listen attentively. Having a regular routine produces the best results. Here are some tips for using music therapy:
Find relaxing music without lyrics. Lyrics are distracting and engage the language centers of your brain. For reducing pain, choose classical, ambient, pianoforte, or light jazz. Nature sounds like ocean waves can also induce deep relaxation.
Listen with headphones. Using over-ear noise cancelling headphones enhances the effects. Close your eyes to avoid visual distractions. Focus fully on the music.
Find a comfortable position. Sit in a supportive chair or lie down with your head and neck properly aligned. Make sure your body is fully supported to release muscle tension.
Focus on your breathing. As you listen to the music, take slow deep breaths. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Keep breathing slowly and rhythmically.
Release muscle tension. Scan your body as you listen. Identify where you are holding tension and consciously relax those muscle groups. Drop your shoulders, relax your jaw, unclench your hands.
Try guided imagery. Some music therapists guide patients through visualization exercises during music listening to enhance relaxation. If your mind wanders, gently refocus on the music.
Avoid multi-tasking. For best results, listen attentively without distraction. Don’t skip sessions – consistency is key.
Selecting Music for Pain Relief
Slower music with about 60 to 80 beats per minute has a calming effect. Nature sounds like ocean waves or atmospheric music without sudden changes in volume work well. Try sampling different genres and composers to see what resonates most with you. Having a few go-to selections is better than listening to random music. Over time you can create playlists that induce deep relaxation.
Here are some musical genres and composers to explore:
- Classical: Debussy, Chopin, Mozart, Vivaldi
- Pianoforte: Yiruma, Ludovico Einaudi, Thomas Newman
- Ambient: Brian Eno, Sigur Ros, Stars of the Lid
- New Age: Steven Halpern, Ray Lynch, 2002
- Soundscapes: Nature recordings, ocean waves, wildlife
As you sample different music, pay attention to how your body responds. Notice areas of tension melting away. Focus on music that creates a profound sense of relaxation, joy and inner peace.
Additional Tips for Neck Pain Relief
While music therapy is excellent for relieving neck pain, consider combining it with other therapies:
- Heat or ice applied to the neck
- Gentle neck stretches and exercises
- Postural training to avoid hunching shoulders
- Massage to loosen tight muscles
- Acupuncture to release trigger points
- Chiropractic adjustment of vertebrae
- Stress management and relaxation techniques
For chronic neck pain, a multi-pronged approach generally works best. Music therapy helps facilitate and enhance the benefits of other therapies. By incorporating music listening into your daily self-care routine, you give your mind and body a powerful tool for releasing neck pain and reclaiming your health. The soothing tones allow your body to relax, redirect your focus, and restore well-being.