The use of music therapy to address the suffering in advanced cancer pain

J Palliat Care. 2001 Autumn;17(3):167-72.


Pain associated with advanced cancer is multifaceted and complex, and is influenced by physiological, psychological, social, and spiritual phenomena. Suffering may be identified in patients when pain is associated with impending loss, increased dependency, and an altered understanding of one's existential purpose. Comprehensive pain management aims to address problematic symptoms in order to improve comfort, peace of mind, and quality of life. Music therapy is a treatment modality of great diversity that can offer a range of benefits to patients with advanced cancer pain and symptoms of suffering. Music therapists perform comprehensive assessments that include reviews of social, cultural, and medical history; current medical status; and the ways in which emotions are affecting the pain. A variety of music therapy techniques may be used, including vocal techniques, listening, and instrumental techniques. These techniques provide opportunities for exploration of the feelings and issues compounding the pain experience. Case examples are presented to demonstrate the "lifting", "transporting", and "bringing of peace" qualities of music that offer patients moments of release, reflection, and renewal.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music / psychology
  • Music Therapy / methods*
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Management*