Is music more effective than pain killers?

Could the simple solution for narcotic addiction be an iPod and some headphones? Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have conducted a study saying yes, it can.  In the past 20 years the amount of pain killers prescribed has almost tripled.  These narcotics are highly addictive and are often misused, especially when they are given out so easily.  I had ACL surgery last year and was amazed at the amount of extra pills I had left over when I was feeling better.  It would have been incredibly easy for me to keep taking the pills when I didn’t need them and become addicted, or to sell them to someone who is already addicted.


The study used various types of music; pop, country, rap, classical, etc. They also played it at different times of the possess, whether it be before, during, after, or all three.  Another variable was the delivery method of the music; speakers or headphones.  They found that the most pain was reduced when patience listened to music before the operation.  The effectiveness decreased the later they listened to it, after the operation being the least effective. A wide range of surgeries were used, be it a simple colonoscopy to an open heart surgery.

One key variable was not affected in the study; no matter what variable was changed their hospital stay stayed the same.  So, they found if patients listened to music their pain was reduced but they spent the same amount of time in the hospital.  If I was to have surgery, I would absolutely choose to listen to music.  Why suffer through more pain if there’s the possibility that doing something as simple as having earbuds in could cause less?


8 thoughts on “Is music more effective than pain killers?

  1. Daniele Patrice Loney

    I absolutely love this post. I had always found music to be therapeutic, but I had never even considered the fact that it may be able to help treat pain. Personally, I am a health freak and am always obsessing over what I’m putting into my body, therefore i’m not the biggest fan of medicine, especially when there are alternative ways to treat the problem.
    After reading your post, I searched youtube to see what types of music popped up most frequently when typing “music and pain” into the search bar. Most of the music involved soothing, wave like sounds. Here’s an example for anyone interested in trying out this pain-relief method!

    1. Katelyn Bowers Post author

      Wow!! I found this so interesting, I had never thought of the possibility of using music to heal minor every day pains. Next time I have a head ache or muscle ache I will try turning to my iPhone and headphones rather than the medicine cabinet. The idea of listening to calming music made for pain relief is really great too. I really like to control and monitor what I put into my body so being able to reduce the amount of Advil and other pain killers I take will help me (and others) be healthier.

  2. Isobel Danielle Hoang

    I found an interesting article that explains that when listening to music our brain releases dopamine- the chemical that helps you feel pleasure. This would explain why listening to music would be an efficient pain killer as our brain is processing pleasure as a result of the music. I think that depending on something other than pain killers would benefit our society as the use of recreational drugs is increasing. You can find the article about how listening to music causes please here.

  3. Hannah Morgan

    I thought this post was very interesting. I definitely think the effectiveness of pill alternatives, such as music, largely depends on the patient’s attitude. Similar to the placebo effect, it seems like music could only reduce pain if the patient went in truly believing that it would. Pain is so much a “mind over matter” sort of thing that it makes sense that patients report music reducing their pain even if there’s no scientific reasoning to back it up.

  4. Maura Katherine Maguire

    I really enjoyed this post. During my senior year I did my research paper on the effects of music on the brain so this blog really made me happy. I am impressed because I feel I was even able to learn new things from your post even when I felt I had read up on everything regarding the subject when writing a 20 page paper. I loved your writing style and you kept it very straight forward and interesting. Good Work!

  5. Yinghui Huang

    We can always hear the saying that ‘Music is the best medicine.’ It may be a little exaggeration. But I still believe that music can cure people. Take myself as an example, when I once was disappointed in love, I listened to rock which gives much power and endless enthusiasm. After that, I indeed felt much better. So I think music can cure people especially for psychos trauma, which pain killers don’t function.

    1. Katelyn Nicole Bowers Post author

      I agree as well. This post is focussed on surgery and physical pain, but I have found personally emotional pain can be healed by music as well. To find a song that relates to the pain you’re feeling can be so helpful. It makes you feel like you’re not alone, someone else has experienced this before and knows what you’re going through.

  6. jks5601

    May I say that your post was very informative. I am music person who loves dearly and reading your blog post answered some questions that I always asked myself. I have had a couple of surgeries in the past I usually would tend to listen to music to calm me down before I would go in to the surgery. Know that this is actually tested to work and reduce pain is awesome. You did a great job with your post

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