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August 2022

Music as a palliative to cold pressor pain: effects upon threshold and tolerance

Abstract: The recent discovery of pain-relieving endorphins and the currently accepted gate-control theory of pain perception have renewed interest in non-invasive pain management strategies. Music has long functioned to reduce pain, but empirical studies generally pair music with other strategies such as relaxation or suggestion. It was the purposeof this study to examine and isolate the effects of music on cold pressor pain threshold and tolerance in healthy male college students. Twenty-seven male college students were individually administered either one or two cold pressor trials in a double-blind situation. During immersion, subjects heared either 5 minutes of silence or 5 minutes of music from Steven Halpern's Spectrum Suite. Subjects signaled the first discomfort sensation, then withdrew the immersed arm when the discomfort became intolerable, or after 5 minutes, whichever came first. Sixty seconds postwithdrawal, subjects rated the discomfort on a visual-analogue scale. Results of the study supported the null hypothesis that music had no significant effect on either threshold or subjective rating of cold pressor pain. The data on tolerance were not analyzed because 26 of 27 subjects tolerated the full 30 seconds exposure. Analyses of variance indicated that threshold and subjective pain perceptions did not vary over time, and that posttest results were not prejudiced by having a pretest. It was concluded that the investigation should be repeated with modifications and a larger sample size before ruling out music as an effective pain management strategy.

Note: cold-pressor-pain.

Keyword(s): pain, pain-threshold, male, college-students, music.

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