Can singing help reduce pain?

What do we do when we feel pain? Reach for the paracetamol? Try not to think about it? Try to focus on a different task to take our minds off it? Do a bit of yoga?

Last week Steph McGovern did a project on the BBCs ‘Easy ways to live well’ which involved a group of people using singing to combat pain relief. Participants sang together to 15 minutes a day and the results were quite startling! Many participants found they weren’t relying so much on pain relief (tablets) and some had stopped taking them completely! I think the key here wasn’t just the singing, but the fact that participants were doing the singing TOGETHER – and I feel this makes a massive difference. We all feel a bit better when we sing, but it’s the coming together as a community which really makes the benefits deeper and longer lasting.

I have some examples of this from singers in my community choir. One lady says that singing really takes her mind off her back ache which she suffers with on a daily basis. Another lady uses singing as part of her ‘toolbox’ for managing her pain. Rachel’s condition is called Ehlers Danlos syndrome (diagnosed age 14)  and she is of the hypermobile type. She’s also diagnosed with fibromyalgia ( aged 28) which is thought in her case to be as a result of long term pain. She doesn’t take any traditional pain relief for these conditions, preferring instead to manage it with yoga, mindfulness, acupuncture, running and singing.

Rachel says “Singing in a group makes such a difference for all of the above reasons… it’s part of my toolbox of treatment and helps build my resilience to pain with a positive attitude.” I thoroughly admire this approach and have to tell you that she rarely misses a rehearsal of gig! In fact, she rocked up to sing at a gig just the day after she’d completed the London Marathon on 2018!

We are not our best selves when we are in pain are we? In the workplace, it’s estimated that 3 million people have long terms sick leave for back ache alone. What if there was a practical, inexpensive solution to improve this figure through creating the opportunity to sing in groups the workplace?

And yes. Of course I can help you with that. 

Photo credit – Ursula Kelly @studio softbox

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