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Music can be combined with medication to improve pain relief

A new study from the University of Utah Health has revealed that pairing music with medications may be an effective way to manage pain. In particular, a mouse model showed that the combination of ibuprofen and music improved pain associated with inflammation by more than 90 percent.

“We know these drugs work without music but they can produce toxicity and adverse effects,” said study senior author Dr. Grzegorz Bulaj. “The holy grail is to combine the right drug with this new paradigm of music exposure, so we do not need as much drug for analgesic effects.”

The researchers tested this new strategy using a model that mimics inflammatory pain and a model that mimics surgical pain. The mice examined in the study were separated into two groups, including a control group that was exposed to ambient noise and a group that listened to three three-hour sessions of Mozart for 21 days.

“Music is like DNA. We had musicians analyze sequences of several Mozart pieces to optimize the playlist,” said Dr. Bulaj. “This was exciting but challenging to integrate these musical analyses into neuropharmacology.”

The study was conducted four times with ibuprofen, cannabidiol, levetiracetam, and the galanin analog NAX 5055. Both groups of mice received one suboptimal dose of each drug for comparison.

When paired with music, ibuprofen reduced pain responses in the inflammation pain model by 93 percent compared to the drug alone. In addition, music and cannabidiol or NAX 5055 reduced swelling by up to 21 percent in the inflammatory pain model, while music alone reduced pain by 77 percent in the surgical pain model.

“There is emerging evidence that music interventions can alleviate pain when administered either alone or in combination with other therapies,” said study first author Dr. Cameron Metcalf. “I was particularly excited to see reduced swelling in the inflammatory pain model.”

According to Dr. Metcalf, medications currently available to treat inflammation do not show the same effectiveness in such a short amount of time.

“It is exciting to think of what this might mean for the anti-inflammatory effects of music interventions and where the research may take us next,” said Dr. Metcalf.

The research is published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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