Did you know that over 1.5 million people around the world suffer with chronic pain, and that it is the #1 cause of long term disability in the United States? You probably do because according to Peter D. Hart Research Associates,three out of four Americans have either personally experienced chronic pain or have a close family member or friend who has. Chronic pain sufferers often rely on traditional methods of treatment, namely pain medication. Unfortunately only 23% of people who manage chronic pain say that pain medication actually makes a difference for them. Instead, we have seen an increase in addiction to prescription drugs leading to an ‘opioid epidemic’ across the country. At the beginning of the year, there was an opioid and heroin abuse summit in Illinois, where Marvin Lindsey, Community Behavioral Healthcare Associate of Illinois, said that “80 percent of our heroin users initiated their substance abuse with prescription drugs”. This is a big deal, and just like chronic pain, most readers know how this prescription drug/opioid influx has affected people, families and the community close to them.
But what if there is another way? What if we begin to increase the value of non-pharmaceutical treatment and prescribe things like cognitive behavior therapy, nutrition, massage, chiropractic care and of course, Music Therapy.
Seeking the help of a therapist is so important for people who are in the depths of chronic pain. Chronic pain sufferers often report that they experience anxiety and depression which makes it difficult to make the needed behavior changes for experiencing less physical pain on their own. Long term depression can distort someone’s perception of themselves and the world around them, leaving them hopeless, tired and in a continual loop of suffering. If someone is in this state, then working weekly with a therapist should be the first prescribed method. And if benzodiazepines, ssris AND opioids are being prescribed, psychotherapy must start being prescribed too. Not only will this help give non-substance methods for treatment, it will give the person a chance to be monitored on the way they use the prescribed drugs and how they interact with their unique make up.
Therapy is also a very empowering course of treatment. It provides a roadmap for regaining control of your life and support for finding any masked causes of your pain. A therapist can also be a consistent force in your life that keeps you focused on your goals and motivates you to keep going.
So, if you or someone you know is suffering from chronic pain, consider learning more about therapy treatments. If this person really connects to music, and is inspired by the thought of trying something new, check out some of these examples of how music therapy can be used for pain management.
The American Music Therapy Association states that “music therapy has been shown to have a significant effect on a patient’s perceived effectiveness of treatment, self-reports of pain reduction, relaxation, respiration rate, behaviorally observed and self-reported anxiety levels, and patient choice of anesthesia and amount of analgesic medication.”
Music therapists working in hospice and long term care often report a decrease in pain medications for patients during music therapy sessions. Music therapists also enhance addiction programs as they work with psychotherapists to build an effective treatment plan and healing experience.
Professor Suzanne Hanser, EdD, MT-BC, Berklee College of Music designed the music therapy protocol for pain management to perform the following functions:
- ★ To direct attention away from pain or anxiety and redirect attention to calming music.
- ★ To provide a musical stimulus for rhythmic breathing.
- ★ To offer a rhythmic structure for systematic release of body tension.
- ★ To cue positive visual imagery.
- ★ To condition a deep relaxation response.
- ★ To change mood.
- ★ To focus on positive thoughts and feelings and to celebrate life
- ★ Here are a few creative practices that can be used to meet some of these goals.
CREATIVE PRACTICE #1:
Move your body to rhythmic music. When you are in pain, other parts of your body guard up to protect the inflamed organs or muscles. Over time this can lead to contraction and exhaustion. The body becomes overly tense and stressed out on a physical level. Try putting on your favorite dance song and practice slowing release the tension in these areas of your body. Choose a song that is 2-4 minutes long, and start slowly. Begin moving your body to the beat of the music, and bring your awareness to the parts of your body that are tense. If you locate the tension in your shoulders, coordinate shoulder movements to the beat of the song. As you do this, visualize your tension softening. Recognize that the movement is bringing much needed oxygen and blood flow to this tight area. And don’t worry, this song is only a couple minutes long. Practice moving a couple minutes everyday, and before you know it, you might find yourself having more range of motion and an increased ability to relax muscles that are tight.
CREATIVE PRACTICE #2:
Create a resource playlist or find a favorite guided meditation that has music which instantly relaxes you. Practice meditation while listening to this same piece of music each day for 30 days straight. By doing this, you are building a behavioral response to relax when you hear a certain song. Once the behavioral response is built, you can use this song for when you have a pain flare up or on the days when your body/mind is more stressed. When your pain has become the loudest sound in the room, push play on your calming music playlist and balance out your perception with your developed resource of relaxation.
Music therapy continues to be an accessible, non-invasive treatment that improves lives, and it just might be something that can help change the growing problem of unmanaged and overly prescribed prescription drugs. And like Bob Marley says ‘One good thing about music, when it hits you feels no pain’.