The “Sound” of Music: Positive & Negative Effects on Headaches

By Annette GallagherMay 27, 2016No Comments

When you have a headache, you often dislike sound. In fact, the most common advice given for treatment is to lie down in a dark and silent room.

If you have migraines or other chronic headaches, though, this can only somewhat mitigate the symptoms, and can interfere with your life. Medication is often prescribed, but medications have side effects. A migraine or cluster headache can incapacitate you for days, and sometimes the side effects from extra medication can be as bad as the pain in terms of being able to fully function again.


Two recent studies – the first published in the European Journal of Pain and the second in the journal Pain – show that silence might not be the ultimate answer – but that it might, in fact, be music. A study of 58 children with migraine headaches showed distinct improvement using music therapy. It has to be soothing music, of course – unpleasant music makes headaches worse and might even cause them in the first place. Music for treating headaches often shows better results than placebos or some herbs.

The music used in the study was classical music, which tends to have an overall soothing effect and can reduce anxiety. This kind of music reduces stress (often a trigger for headaches) and relaxes muscle tension. It also distracts people from pain and may trigger the release of natural opioids. In other words, rather than a dark, silent room, you may want to set up a carefully chosen playlist of classical and new age music.

You could also choose this kind of music while exercising or commuting rather than harsher sounds, although there’s some evidence that music you really like may be effective even if it’s counter-intuitive, such as heavy metal. Some patients find a heavy bass is particularly effective, and it’s possible that vibrations may play a role in that. Individuals may need to use some trial and error to find the migraine music that provides them the most relief.

Although music therapy is not a substitute for medication, it can be a useful part of a treatment plan, especially for children. It will also help your overall stress levels – reducing not just headaches, but other stress-related symptoms you might be experiencing.


If you think that music might be helpful for your chronic headache or migraine pain, please consult with the friendly professionals at the National Headache Institute. We can help put together a treatment plan that provides you lasting relief and allows you to get on with your life. All using the latest proven technologies, which might just involve some of your favorite tunes! Call us today to schedule a consultation.