Can singing help me manage chronic pain?

I-love-singing-singing-21054899-500-467Can singing help me manage chronic pain?

Its probably not the first thing that crosses your mind when life has become a daily struggle from the myriad of unpleasant chronic pain conditions that can strike at anytime. Arthritis, sciatica, lower back pain to name but a few.

Management of chronic pain needs to start with an element of acceptance and shifting the goal posts so expectations of large improvements are not met with disappointment when not achieved.

For example, you may decide one day that you are going to do all your exercises and you used to be able to do them but this time, because there are changes in the body, the pain has all got a lot worse.

This can develop into a downward spiral of fear and avoidance. Muscles become weaker through lack of use and the chance of further injury through exercise increases. Work may become impossible and in some cases may even lead to unemployment which further increases stress levels and the very serious risk of depression.

So what now?

Singing!! Don’t be ridiculous….

It seems almost insulting to even suggest it when life has reached such a low ebb, BUT the health benefits of singing have been massively researched in the last 10 years and The Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals already use singing with respiratory patients in treating chronic lung diseases and whilst it won’t cure it, quality of life is significantly improved.

Singing is as good as any aerobic workout and ‘exercises the major muscle groups in the upper body, even when sitting’*. It can tone the abdominal and intercostal (between the ribs) muscles and the diaphragm. Sounds far more appealing than a trip to the gym when your not at your best doesn’t it?

It is well proven that singing increases the feel good hormones in your body, endorphins, and the psychological benefits when singing together increase the sense of community and belonging.

In a report in the 2004 Journal of Music therapy a study by Harvard and Yale universities even went as far as to say singing can increase life expectancy!

I have always enjoyed singing and have regularly subjected my family and friends to an assortment of Gilbert and Sullivan recitals. In the society I have sung with for over 10 years with, we are always laughing and joking and there are many members who are well into their 80’s who look fantastic and in very rude health. I would like to think this in part can be attributed to singing.

I am not for one minute suggesting that singing will cure your pain and make you live long enough for a telegram from the Queen but with so much positive research and reported health benefits why not have a go? I read a report recently that said there are now more choirs than fish and chip shops in the UK so look out for a choir near you.

It may just be the first step in your recovery

*Professor Graham Welch, Chair of music Education at the Institute of education.