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Fibromyalgia & Music Therapy

We discuss how music therapy helps some fibromyalgia patients manage their pain


Music impacts a person by sparking memories and emotion. Therapists are able to utilise this power, to surface feelings across the spectrum from grief to joy, as a healing tool. This technique been proven to effectively manage chronic pain and other symptoms tied to fibromyalgia, as we highlight in this article.

Fibromyalgia and music therapy

Music therapy works by distracting the patient from the intensity of their symptoms. It is effective and commonly used with fibromyalgia patients to manage chronic pain and improve their overall quality of life. That statement was reaffirmed in 2011, by researchers at the University of Granada, as a result of a four-week study involving 60 fibromyalgia sufferers across three regions in Spain. Participants, in the Effect of Music as Nursing Intervention for People Diagnosed with Fibromyalgia study, were required to take part in music therapy sessions and relaxation exercises, as well as apply the techniques at home. All outcomes were positive, with the team reporting:

“The findings of this pilot study suggest the importance of music therapy as a nursing intervention and justify further investigation into music as a self-management intervention to reduce pain and depression.”

The researchers further add, the patient’s willingness to be involved, combined with it being a low cost and easily implemented solution have contributed to its effectiveness.

Music therapy explained

Music therapy, aids positive change and emotional wellbeing, as an innovative psychological treatment led by a music therapist. An individualised treatment plan is set by the therapist to meet their client’s unique needs. Depending on the approach, sessions involve singing, listening, composing and moving to music in a group setting or one-on-one with the therapist. A wide range of instruments are incorporated to motivate clients to develop their own musical language that reflects their emotional and physical state. These sound elements comprised of rhythm, melody and tonality builds a therapeutic connection that heals numerous conditions in people of all ages.

Music therapy doesn’t involve a specific genre and you do not need to be musically talented to benefit from it. There is no typical class outline implied, improvisation is encouraged and sessions tend to vastly vary. Despite the patient-led approach, working with a therapist is highly recommended, as they’re able to facilitate a setting to reach goals, as well as assign tailored retrospective exercises and explore breakthroughs.  

Growing in accessibility and popularity

The NHS reports this niche form of therapy is becoming more known for aiding a wide spectrum of health conditions. Regular group sessions are available for people to access through a variety of public or private health, social care and educational settings, including the following:

  • hospitals (NHS and private)
  • social services such as day centres
  • education (primary, secondary, further, special education and pupil referral units)
  • child development centres
  • children’s centres
  • hospices
  • residential setting including care homes
  • prisons and forensic units
  • acute and post-acute rehabilitation centres
  • community spaces
  • third sector organisations
  • private practice

New research

If you’re hesitant to join a group or reach out to a therapist, why not give it a go at home first? There are pre-recorded versions of music therapy available but improvisation is a key element, so experts suggest choosing a style of music you’re most comfortable freely engaging with rather than just listening to. This is often music the participant enjoyed during an influential period in their life, like their teen years. If you’re struggling to find a track, try ambient music, since new research suggests it can be just as beneficial as lyrical music. This knowledge comes as a result of the study, Effects of Listening to Music versus Environmental Sounds in Passive and Active Situations on Levels of Pain and Fatigue in Fibromyalgia, published in July 2015. The four-week analysis found audio in general, music and soothing environmental sounds, to equally minimise levels of pain and fatigue in fibromyalgia patients. The outcome disproved the scientist’s hypothesis, since they expected the emotional impact tied to music to be connected to the relieving effect.

Whichever style of music you choose, make sure you sing, hum and move along with it, while adding your own beats or sound effects. The more the participate integrates into the sounds, the more benefit they’re likely to receive. In terms of methods of pain management, music therapy falls in the “it can’t hurt” category. Have you tried music therapy? Share your story with us on Facebook or Twitter.

We do not endorse any research, studies or sources mentioned within our blogs and comments. Furthermore, we do not endorse any medical advice provided, and would strongly recommend anyone seeking medical advice to contact their local healthcare provider.

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