Music relieves migraine headaches and pain

Two recent studies suggest that music can relieve migraine headache in children and relieve experimentally-induced pain.  In a study of 58 children with migraine headaches published in the European Journal of Pain music therapy was compared to a placebo pill and an herbal supplement, butterbur.  Both music therapy and butterbur provided significantly better relief than placebo.  In the second study published in journal Pain, healthy volunteers were subjected to pain by heating up a spot on their forearms.  The volunteers were divided into three groups: a silent control group, a group listening to pleasant music and another group listening to unpleasant music.   Those who listened to pleasant music felt less pain than the other two groups.  These two studes provide scientific support to the use of music therapy for painful conditions, including migraine headaches. 

19 comments
  1. Debra says: 05/05/20087:47 pm

    Which types of music were termed pleasant and unpleasant? Did it make a difference if the music was Classical, but the subjects normally listened to hard rock or jazz?

  2. Alexander Mauskop says: 05/05/200810:38 pm

    Rating of pleasantness was obtained by averaging responses of a number of healthy people who were asked to listen to specific pieces of music. Personal preferences of test subjects were not taken into account.

  3. Sky says: 07/10/200811:39 am

    I know this is an older article, but I found this blog from a link I came across in a web search on music and migraines.

    I am a long-time sufferer of migraines. Back in 1993-4, I used to frequent a nightclub and found that if I went there when I was suffering from a migraine, after a short time the migraine would disappear.

    When I stopped going to the club and faced migraines, I often spent an entire day and night in pain along with extreme nausea. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized the connection with music and migraine relief.

    In 2003, my migraines started returning with a frightening frequency – 3-4 times a week I was incapacitated by them. One day, I cranked up the stereo in the car to try and keep myself distracted from an oncoming migraine while driving home from work — and noticed the severity seemed to diminish.

    Ever since, I have “treated” my migraines with nothing more than music. Nowadays, I put in my bud earphones, turn on my iPod, and turn up the volume. For me, music that has a strong bass or drum beat is most effective, as the “throb” that occurs from the music beat quickly rids me (within 10-15 min) of any nausea and within 30 min to an hour, my migraine will be completely gone — though as soon as I start the music “therapy”, I immediately feel noticeable relief.

    The only other thing I tend to do with a migraine are find a dark place, either a darkened room or, if it is daytime, in bed under the covers. I know the darkness isn’t the primary relieving factor in my migraines, because before I started my purposeful music therapy I always found a dark place to “hide” in when my migraines hit, and would spend HOURS in agony. So it’s all about the music!

    Music that helps me with my migraines? As I said, anything with a strong bass or drum beat. Rock music, mostly, turned up very loud, subdues my migraines in no time!

  4. Mel Burgett says: 10/27/20083:29 pm

    I find this article interesting but it is the BASS MUSIC that gives me the migraines. Are there any answers or tests for this? I am a veteran and wonder if the VA facilities can give me a test. I had a CT scan but came up negative. Is a EEG a good test? – Thanks in advance. – Mel

  5. Dr. Mauskop says: 10/27/200811:20 pm

    It does not seem that you need any tests – just avoid the type of music that gives you headaches. The type of music that worsens or helps headaches varies from person to person. As you can see from Sky’s comments above, strong bass actually relieves her headaches.

  6. Marry Goodmen says: 07/12/20099:21 am

    Hi, very interesting post, and I agree with alot of it. I have already bookmarked your blog :) .Thankyou.

  7. Bob Brown says: 08/02/200911:09 am

    I have suffered from migraines for over forty years. I have encountered two phenomena that I would like to share that may hold a key or some relief for fellow sufferers.

    1. Living in Bloomington, Indiana, we have the Tibetan Cultural Center.
    I encountered the meditation practices of the Tibetans and their use of singing bowls.

    The sound waves from Tibetan singing bowls during a migraine certainly help me. During my experiments I would cause the Tibetan bowl to vibrate and hold it close to my head during the attack. Lower sounds of deeper bowls for me are better.

    2. I was outside in my garden with a bad headache when a ruby throated hummingbird cam really close to my head. Two male hummingbirdswhere sparring and as they came close to my head the sonic vibration of the hummingbird wings penetrated my head. It was like a shock, the headache was just gone.

    3. These vibrations, music, nature, sounds do contain properties that seem to reset the brain into a more restful or more pain resistant state.

    4. Bach’s church organ music is also helpful.

    I also add prayer and or meditation during the sound session. I use visualization to see the sound pushing the pain out and transforming it.

    I hope this helps someone.
    Bob

  8. Ryan says: 01/25/20108:03 pm

    I started getting opitcal migranes in high school once or twice a year.
    My mom would come pick me up from school, and the headache would
    linger through the afternoon until almost 10pm. This was the norm until
    one of my older brothers friends came to pick me one day when my mother
    couldn’t leave work. He had just installed a new stereo system in his car and was excited for me to hear it. He had two 15 inch woofers in a small hatch back. He began to turned it up, and surprisingly, it didn’t seem to bother my
    headache. He said “Does the music make your head hurt worse?” I said actually the vibration kinka feels good. By the end of the 20 min ride home. My headache was much more bearable. Within a an hour or so, it was completely gone. Only the days he brought me home would they dissapear shortly after coming home. Finally I figured it out. But it took some time.
    To this day, I sit in my truck while my woofers pound for 30 min, just to re-gain my sanity away from the throbbing pain of my optical migranes.

    Sincerely,
    Ryan M.
    West Palm Beach, FL

  9. Josh says: 09/11/20106:47 pm

    I wish I could find out more on how music can help with migraines. I have found that it works very well with me. For me it isn’t so much about the base, but the rhythmic quality of the music. I’m not talking about hip hop base, but just something steady and repetitive almost at a walking pace. If the music pulses with the beat it works even better. The “regularity” of the beat almost feels like it is reordering my mind and takes care of the pain an nausea within 20 or 30 minutes.

  10. Kim says: 01/21/20113:37 pm

    It seems from all the posts that it may actually be the vibration that is helping with the migraines. Most everyone talks about the type of music, the beat or the bass but, they all have a sort of vibration involved. Any information on this? I have suffered for over 30 years with frequent migraines. My oldest gets 2-3 a month and my younges has anywhere from 3-6 a week. We’ve tried all the preventative meds, allergy shots, chiropractor, physical therapy, etc. Nothing helps. I’ve never heard of butterbur or the musical connection–think I’ll try both.
    Thanks for posting!!

  11. Shai says: 02/02/201110:27 pm

    (Sorry if this is long-winded, just a little girl excited with a new discovery. Hello, fellow sufferers and thank you for your stories :)

    Wow, am I so relieved to have found this site! I’ve been getting migraines since I was 14 (I’m 24 now) and it used to be once a year but when I started working it became as frequent as once or twice every 3-4 months. I only found out my “attacks” were migraines when I stumbled upon some research 2 years ago, and then I began to notice which factors were my triggers (stress, secondhand smoke, roller-coaster emotions, too much coffee, erratic sleeping and eating habits, too much MSG/processed food) and my cures (2 Advils during aura phase and sleeping in an airconditioned room before the pain can really hit, no need for it to be silent or dark). It does help when we know what applies to our case specifically :)

    Anyway, what saddens me is whenever I encounter a lot of my triggers (I work as a TV producer so it’s inevitable), I become paranoid that I’ll get an attack soon, and at a most inconvenient time: while driving, while directing a shoot, while presenting a concept, etc. It’s come to a point where, whenever I have weekends/days/nights off, I’d unwittingly pray that whatever attack is coming be “rescheduled” to those days. And when I do get my attack and I happen to be in bed/at home, I’m so overjoyed and grateful. It sucks, it’s like I’ve become a slave that can’t do anything about migraine’s whims. I figured since I love music I might as well google “music for headaches.” Thank you for this. I’ll probably try my chillout/lounge beats. My boyfriend will be happy to hear that I don’t hate his hatchback’s subwoofers and bass beats any longer :)

  12. Ps says: 02/25/20111:29 am

    I have a music story that I hope will help someone else here. It was a random occurance but Wow what a difference it made! Driving home with a migraine that was only getting worse, (in the thick of aura and pain) I turned on the radio to help me stay alert. A song that I did not recognize was playing softly. As soon as it ended, Kodachrome by Paul Simon came on and I felt a sort of quick relief of some of my headache pain. It was counterintuitive but I turned it up louder and that helped more, especially the bass portion. I started to sing along in a way that harmonized with the melody and that helped even more. By the time the song ended, my headache was almost completely gone. I downloaded the song and put it on repeat and sang along for about 20-30 minutes more and the headache was 90% resolved. Give it a try!

  13. Dr. Sunil Mishra says: 06/19/20112:03 am

    It is my personal experience as a migraine sufferer and as an expert of Migraine Management. Medicines and other alternative therapies including music provide some relief only. If sufferers want to get relief from migraine they should focus their concentration on food, sleep, and stress. Music will help to relieve stress only which is a one of the most powerful factor in migraine management. All sufferers need a good amount of sleep, adequate food in proper intervel, and alleviation of stress PURPOSELLY. These little but effective approaches help to provide relieve from this peculier malady.

  14. Anonymous says: 08/01/20117:34 pm

    I actually find that music with a grinding bass relieves my migraines. I only have light sensitivity migraines. Sound doesn’t bother me. It seems to help.

  15. Anonymous says: 11/17/201110:19 pm

    I have chronic daily migraines and I love heavy metal. I’m not sure if its the bass or just the sound of the music, but what ever it is I know it helps.

  16. Nick says: 07/07/20129:47 pm

    If anyone is interested in the original articles, here they are:

    In a study of 58 children with migraine headaches . . .
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090380107005885

    In the second study published in journal Pain . . .
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304395907001856

  17. Lauren says: 10/06/20123:30 am

    This really works. I woke up with an oncoming migraine a few hours ago, and put on some classical music on repeat, and I must have gone back to sleep – because when I later woke I was much better, and needed to take a lot fewer tablets.

  18. Karen says: 01/15/20135:24 pm

    I have season affect disorder. And when the barometric pressure drops I suffer horrific headaches… Put on some hard rock thumping music and within 10 minutes my headache is almost gone.. Have tried this repeatedly and works each time. Matter of fact listened to Puddle of Mud song Blurry and today my headache was relieve by the 3rd repeat…

  19. mitzi stone says: 05/31/20138:47 am

    singing relieves extreme headache

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