I can make you feel good

What role is there for music in modern medicine?

Music has been marginalised in medicine. Now, though, many doctors are arguing for its wider therapeutic use.

Not surprisingly, given its power to influence mood and behaviour, its most popular uses are for psychological and psychiatric disorders, as well as neurological conditions and pain control.

Music has proven value in situations likely to promote anxiety, such as children’s medical and dental treatment and cervical cancer screening. Other well-established uses include interventions for people with chronic pain or tinnitus and children with migraine.

But the effects are often not great and may not be long-lasting: in dementia, music reduces disruptive behaviour at the time but has little long-term impact.

That said, absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence – it may just be that the right studies have not been done to assess a clinically relevant effect.


About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Music, Mind and Medicine’ in June 2009 and reviewed and updated in July 2014.

Psychology, Medicine, Health, infection and disease
Music, Mind and Medicine
Education levels:
14–16, 16–19, Continuing professional development