APM Blog


Anxiety (2)

16 Nov

The Medical Dictionary defines anxiety as “a painful or apprehensive uneasiness of mind, usually over an impending or anticipated ill.” This definition would suggest that anxiety seems to be a normal part of being human. All of us have worried about things like our finances, our health, or the well-being of those closest to us. Anxiety is even a healthy emotion, because it motivates us to plan for our future and, take care of ourselves. For example, without some anxiety, we might not pay our bills on time, watch what we eat or install smoke detectors.

So how can anxiety be a problem? There is a fine line between healthy and unhealthy anxiety. In general, anxiety can be unhealthy when it comes from irrational worries or fears about events that are unlikely to occur. For example, those who suffer from an anxiety condition called panic disorder may believe a sudden change in their heart rate is a sign they are about to have a heart attack. Individuals who have a generalized anxiety disorder might worry about not being able to pay their bills even though they have plenty of savings and have no debt. Anxiety is also unhealthy when it leads an individual to avoid activities, places, or people unnecessarily. Among those with chronic pain, for example, anxiety about causing injury or harm to the body is one of the biggest obstacles in the way of patients getting more physical activity.  Finally, anxiety that seems to increase your pain consistently, causes you to lose sleep, or causes you other physical symptoms; it is likely you are dealing with anxiety of the unhealthy kind.

So what do I do about anxiety? Although there are various types of anxiety problems, treatments for each type share some common elements. Simply put, treatments involve making changes in three areas: changes in physical experiences, changes in behavior and changes in thoughts. Making changes in physical experience might include learning how to relax and learning how to tell the difference between tense and relaxed muscles. Changes in behavior could include challenging oneself to confront those things that are typically avoided: e.g. increasing physical activity despite fears that to do so would cause damage to the body. Finally, making changes in thought involves looking at the ways in which we think of events. By keeping a record of thoughts that occur along with anxiety, for example, one can detect ways in we might exaggerate potential dangers.  

01 Nov

It’s well known that music is good for the soul. It can be calming, reassuring, soothing – anything you need right when you need it. And, as it turns out, it may also be good for your pain levels. As Bob Marley once said, “One good thing about music – when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

Lessening Pain Sensations

Actively listening to music may go a long way toward lessening painful sensations. A study in the Clinical Journal of Pain[1] tested this out by administering painful shocks to people either actively listening to music (by performing error detection or other such tasks) or passively listening. They found that actively listening to music decreased pain’s effects on the brain, meaning a lessening of pain perception. This effect was especially true for those who were highly anxious.

The theory goes that music is so effective because processing it engages many of the same brain pathways that pain does. The more pathways engaged by music, the fewer there are to process your pain. However, focusing on music may work best for acute bursts of pain; a chronic headache, for instance, may benefit more from music’s ability to help you zone out.

Chronic Pain and Depression

Additional research shows that listening to music regularly – for a set amount of time every day – can both improve pain and decrease depression. For instance, in a study published in the UK’s Journal of Advanced Nursing,[2] people with a range of painful conditions (like osteoarthritis and disc problems) who listened to music of their choice for an hour every day experienced a 12-21% reduction in pain levels. They also experienced a 19-25% reduction in depression and reported that they felt they had more control over their pain.

Plus, according to research published in Frontiers in Psychology,[3] for those experiencing fibromyalgia pain, music may be able to make pain both less unpleasant and less intense. One expert suggests this may either be because music helps our body release the natural opioids that it produces, or it may just be a very effective method of redirecting our attention.[4]

Decrease Pain After Surgery

According to a large-scale review of studies on music and pain,[5] music has also been proven effective at decreasing pain, anxiety and analgesia use after surgery. Compared to undisturbed bed rest, routine care, white noise and headphones with no music, music was shown to be superior in lessening levels of postoperative pain, while increasing patient satisfaction. One key component of interest was that this effect was present even when patients were under general anesthetic, meaning music has an effect even on the unconscious brain.

In the long run, this could mean less pain and opioid use months and even years after surgery, resulting in better functional outcomes from surgeries of all types.

Type of Music

Experts agree that the type of music doesn’t really matter. It just has to be one that brings you pleasure and that holds your interest over time. Something that keeps you absorbed – rather than one that leaves your mind free to wander – will likely produce the best pain-relieving results.

Music and other types of alternative pain treatments are, of course, most effective when used in conjunction with interventional therapies. For an individualized treatment plan that addresses your specific pain condition, contact your doctor or call (888) 901-PAIN to set up a consultation.

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[1] Bradshaw, David H., C. Richard Chapman, Robert C. Jacobson, and Gary W. Donaldson. “Effects of Music Engagement on Responses to Painful Stimulation.” The Clinical Journal of Pain 28, no. 5 (June 1, 2012): 418–27.

[2] Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. "Listening To Music Can Reduce Chronic Pain And Depression By Up To A Quarter." ScienceDaily. May 24, 2006. Accessed October 3, 2016. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060524123803.htm.

[3] Garza-Villarreal, Eduardo A., Andrew D. Wilson, Lene Vase, Elvira Brattico, Fernando A. Barrios, Troels S. Jensen, Juan I. Romero-Romo, and Peter Vuust. “Music Reduces Pain and Increases Functional Mobility in Fibromyalgia.” Frontiers in Psychology 5 (February 11, 2014).

[4] Price Persson, Charlotte. “Music Can Relieve Chronic Pain.” March 25, 2014. Accessed October 3, 2016. http://sciencenordic.com/music-can-relieve-chronic-pain.

[5] Hole, Jenny, Martin Hirsch, Elizabeth Ball, and Catherine Meads. “Music as an Aid for Postoperative Recovery in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” The Lancet 386, no. 10004 (October 12, 2015): 1659–71.

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