Music as an Alternative to Opioids: Pain Management Stretches to New Paradigms

By Summa-Chadwick, Martha | The Exceptional Parent, August 2017 | Go to article overview

Music as an Alternative to Opioids: Pain Management Stretches to New Paradigms


Summa-Chadwick, Martha, The Exceptional Parent


Neuroscience professionals acknowledge that music is a direct conduit to the brain; specific rhythm exercises in the form of biomedical music protocols can help redirect neural networks for persons with motor, speech, and cognition challenges.

Music is the essential ingredient that nourishes the universal experience of human poetry. We derive great joy from listening to a favorite piece at a concert, shed a tear on hearing a beloved refrain that helps us recall a special life event, or smile as the music on our mobile devices accompanies us everywhere we go. Music is a gift for the human consciousness that is woven so deeply into the fabric of our existence that sometimes we don't fully realize the pleasure or healing it brings into our lives. But Jane Smith (not her real name) now appreciates the transformative power of music to soothe, heal, and positively alter her body; Jane's life changed in ways she could never have dreamed after she attended a concert performed by Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Melissa Manchester in May of 2016.

When she heard about Melissa's concert, Jane had been living with a 30-year dependence on opioid prescription medication to treat the pain for her fibromyalgia and back pain resulting from two automobile accidents. Her addicted body had become trapped in a cycle of additional pain caused by the continuous use of opioid-based drugs as her doctors kept issuing more prescriptions. She had withdrawn from practically all social activities, but when she heard about the concert of a beloved artist from her college days within driving distance, she knew she had to go. Jane wasn't expecting anything out of the ordinary to occur, she just anticipated having a wonderful and reflective time listening to the music.

Melissa's concert, however, was a life-changing event for Jane. She sat so close to the stage that she could literally feel the music physically resonating in her body, and Jane realized she felt a deep sense of comfort and joy, coupled with a surprising and significant decrease in her pain levels. At that moment when she realized the music had relieved some of her continuous pain, Jane's life took a sudden and momentous pivot; she was determined to make a change. Buoyed by the experience of her pain reduction, Jane loaded her iPad with an extensive playlist of Melissa's music and began a personal detoxification process to wean her body off 30 years of opioid prescription drugs. Over the next few weeks she listened to Melissa's music almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The music became her most effective form of pain management.

Withdrawal from this kind of drug dependence is not easy, but the chemical crutches Jane had needed for so long were gradually replaced with four gifts that she says she continually receives from Melissa's music: soothing comfort, clarity, healing, and joy bringing personal transformation. Jane gradually learned to breathe through her pain and listened to the music instead of reaching for a pain pill. With great determination and the help of Melissa's music playing constantly, her body gradually adjusted to the withdrawal from the pain medication. Jane celebrated a joyful Independence Day of 2016 with her own complete independence from prescription opioid drugs.

Although Jane recently injured her back again when she tripped and fell on a sidewalk, she has maintained her sobriety. She turned to natural remedies for pain management such as using a heating pad and listening to Melissa's music rather than using opioid medications. The constant music isn't needed now, but Jane still turns it on several times a day. It makes her happy and also keeps her from wanting or needing narcotics; the joy she receives from Melissa's music has replaced opioids as her source of pleasure and comfort to manage her pain. Her pain levels have decreased considerably. When in the thrall of the opioid addiction, her pain levels were at a constant 10 + on the scale of one to ten; they've now been reduced to about a 3-4 level on a daily basis. …

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