The Use of Music in the Chronic Pain Experience: An Investigation into the Use of Music and Music therapy by Patients and Staff at a Hospital Outpatient Pain Clinic


  • Katie Fitzpatrick
  • Hilary Moss University of Limerick
  • Dominic Colman Harmon



This study uses mixed methodology research to examine the use of music in the chronic pain experience. One hundred and seven adult patients attending an outpatient pain clinic at a general hospital completed a patient survey. 91% rated music as somewhat important to them, 69% benefit from music listening and 43% changed their use of music due to chronic pain. 56% of respondents had an interest in availing of music therapy as part of their treatment. Three themes found in the qualitative results (music for relaxation, positive response to music and music for coping) corresponded with the highly rated reasons for listening to music in the quantitative survey (enjoyment, relaxation and tension relief). Music listening was more common than active participation in music.

Seven staff members completed surveys on their use of music and thoughts on music therapy in this setting. Staff rated music as very beneficial for people with chronic pain and 100% saw a role for music therapy in the treatment of patients with chronic pain.

This study is one of few to map how people with chronic pain use music to self-care and to explore the role of music therapy in a hospital out-patient pain department. It offers potential for music therapy to be offered as a non-pharmacological intervention to assist people in developing music-based resources and strategies for managing chronic pain. Further investigation is recommended.

Author Biographies

Katie Fitzpatrick

Katie is a musician, music therapist, community musician and music educator with several years’ experience working with people though music. She holds two master’s degrees in music therapy and community music from the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick, Ireland. She is currently pursuing a PhD in music therapy and chronic pain. She also works as a music therapist in the areas of mental health, intellectual disability, early intervention, autism and Down syndrome.

Hilary Moss, University of Limerick

Senior Lecturer and Course Director of the MA Music Therapy, Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick. MBA in Health Service Management and PhD from School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin.


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