The Beatles are widely considered one of the most influential and important bands in music history. Their innovative songwriting and musical experimentation shaped the course of popular music in the 1960s and beyond. One aspect of The Beatles’ music that is perhaps less examined is its potential therapeutic effects, specifically on alleviating neck pain.
It is well-established that music can have positive effects on pain management. Studies have shown music’s efficacy as a complementary therapy for procedures ranging from surgery to childbirth. Music is believed to work by distracting the brain from pain signals, altering mood, triggering the release of endorphins, and more. The type of music that is most effective varies by individual, but in general, slower tempos around 60-80 beats per minute have been found most relaxing.
Much of The Beatles’ catalog falls right in this range. In fact, a study conducted by the The British Academy of Sound Therapy analyzed the discographies of popular artists and found The Beatles to have the highest percentage of songs composed in the 60-80 bpm sweet spot for promoting calmness and pain relief. The Beatles’ early hits like “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” uplift mood with quick tempos, while later psychedelic-era tracks like “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” hover right around the ideal 60 bpm mark. Even faster songs often have stretches that dip into the therapeutic tempo range.
So how could The Beatles’ music specifically relieve neck pain? Firstly, the distraction provided by focusing on music can reduce muscle tension and anxiety that often exacerbate neck issues. Tuning into the nuances of The Beatles’ harmonies and instrumentation directs the brain’s attention away from pain signals. Even just ten minutes of distraction has been shown to provide some pain relief.
Secondly, The Beatles’ music promotes overall relaxation by influencing heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Slow, soothing songs lower arousal, releasing muscle tension in the neck. One study by Massachusetts General Hospital found that patients undergoing implantable cardioverter defibrillator procedures experienced less pain and anxiety while listening to a 60 bpm selection of Beatles songs versus listening to a faster-paced soundtrack.
Lastly, singing along to The Beatles’ catchy melodies and meaningful lyrics can boost endorphins, the body’s natural pain relievers. This is especially true for music that elicits positive emotions based on personal memories and associations. As cultural touchstones, Beatles songs often provide that nostalgic, uplifting effect. One study even showed singing more effectively raised pain thresholds than just listening to music.
Research into music therapy for pain is still an emerging field with many areas yet to be explored. There is little doubt, however, that The Beatles produced a singular catalog of songs that seem specifically designed to soothe mind, body and soul. So next time neck pain strikes, consider cuing up your favorite Fab Four album. With regular relaxation and sing-alongs, you may find some handy pain relief from the legendary Liverpool lads. Just don’t strain your neck banging your head to “Helter Skelter”! Moderation is key when using The Beatles’ music to ease neck discomfort. But used properly, the work of McCartney, Lennon, Harrison and Starr could be the ideal, natural analgesic.