Skip to main content

Managing Cancer Pain: Music Therapy

Read Time: 2 minutes
 Mackenzie Oprean, music therapist at Huntsman Cancer Institute

Three music therapists playing guitars and a drum outdoors at Huntsman Cancer Institute

Recently published guidelines for pain management highlight the benefits of acupuncture, massage therapy, and music therapy. All three treatments reduce pain related to cancer and its treatment. In this final installment of a three-part series, we look at the benefits of music therapy.

What is music therapy?

Music therapy is the clinical use of music to address physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of individuals. At Huntsman Cancer Institute, music therapists provide services for patients, staff, and caregivers. 

In cancer care, music therapy can improve physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, and physical functioning, and has an effect on heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. In some cases, it has been shown to decrease the amount of pain medication a person needs. Music therapy has been endorsed and recommended for cancer care by the American Cancer Society, National Institute of Health, the Society for Integrative Oncology, and the American Society for Clinical Oncology. 

What are the benefits of music therapy?

Because music ties a person so strongly to memory and emotion, it can be a powerful tool to address emotional needs as well. Mackenzie Oprean, music therapist at Huntsman Cancer Institute says, “Music therapy addresses the patient holistically as a unique individual. Oftentimes in a hospital setting, there is an intense amount of focus devoted to fixing a patient’s physical ailment. This is obviously a hugely important component of medical care; however, it does not always encompass individuals' whole needs. 

The ability of music therapy interventions to be individualized allows us to address unique needs of patients, caregivers, and staff. In my opinion, there is a gap in care in attending to each patient’s individuality that music therapy addresses.”

Mackenzie Oprean
Mackenzie Oprean

How can the Wellness and Integrative Health Center help?

Whether it be an individual session for an inpatient unit or a group session for staff, music therapists use their educational background and skill to address the specialized needs of the people they are working with through singing, music improvisation, songwriting, drumming, instrument instruction, and more. 

A music therapist meets with you to find out your needs and how you interact with music. You don’t have to be a singer or play an instrument. The music therapist provides ideas and treatment options tailored to you.

Huntsman Cancer Institute has been a leader in integrative approaches to pain management and offers treatments at lower costs to patients, survivors, and caregivers. The Wellness and Integrative Health Center offers music therapy treatments from highly-trained providers. 

Shelley White, PhD, manages the Wellness and Integrative Health Center. “I love it when patients tell me, ‘my doctor told me my engagement in the wellness center services during my treatment will help me get through my cancer treatment.’ Provider referrals at the onset of a new diagnosis are a testament to how forward-thinking and truly integrative Huntsman Cancer Institute really is.”

Cancer touches all of us.