What if we could boost the effects of pain relievers like CBD and ibuprofen by throwing on a playlist? A new study demonstrates that the combo of Mozart’s music and painkillers could represent the future of pain treatment.
Pain and Epilepsy: Innovation Required
Pain and epilepsy are two neurological conditions. Although they are distinct in their cause and effect, they both have an unmet need for novel, innovative treatments.
People who suffer from chronic pain often have few options for relief. Commonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can cause stomach issues and even cardiovascular problems. Opioids are effective for treating pain. However, the strong potential for abuse has created an overwhelming public health crisis in the United States.
In the case of epilepsy, sufferers face several challenges. First and foremost, they must control their seizures. But anti-seizure medications often have adverse side effects that can lead to low adherence. Additionally, those with epilepsy tend to have higher mortality rates and also suffer from other chronic conditions like depression.
Digital Health: A New Treatment Approach
With technology advancing at a rapid pace, many researchers are exploring the potential of digital health. Digital health uses the internet and mobile technologies to improve health and treat disease. The FDA has even approved several mobile apps and video games for this purpose. So far the research shows that these new technologies could help treat both pain and epilepsy.
The Therapeutic Effects of Music
Some digital health technologies have focused on the therapeutic effects of music to treat mood disorders like depression and anxiety. But music also has the ability to reduce pain and epileptic seizures.
However, there isn’t a great deal of research looking at the effect of music on pain and epilepsy.
Researchers Create a Novel Treatment with Music and Pharmaceutical Combo
New research led by professor Greg Bulajat at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City combined the therapeutic effects of Mozart’s music with pharmaceutical therapies for pain. They also evaluated the effect of music on seizure frequency.
For three weeks, the researchers exposed mice to music during part of the day. Control mice lived in similar conditions but instead of music, the researchers exposed them to ambient noise.
To evaluate pain, the researchers inflicted injuries on sedated mice to mimic the effects of post-surgery pain. Then researchers gave the mice a dose of one of four medications:
- Ibuprofen: This nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug is frequently used to treat pain. It works by inhibiting enzymes that produce prostaglandins, mediators of pain, inflammation, and fever.
- Cannabidiol (CBD): This cannabinoid derived from the cannabis plant binds to cannabinoid receptors as well as many others. Researchers are still working to understand its exact mechanism of action. But this multipurpose molecule can reduce pain, inflammation, anxiety, epileptic seizures, and much more.
- Levetiracetam: Although its mechanism of action is unknown, doctors prescribe this anticonvulsant to treat epilepsy.
- NAX 5055: Researchers developed this anticonvulsant to target the brain’s limbic system where epileptic seizures originate.
To evaluate epilepsy, the researchers infected mice with a virus that causes seizures similar to epilepsy.
Ibuprofen combined with music significantly improved pain relief and inflammation when compared to either treatment by itself.
Interestingly, CBD did not have a similar synergistic, pain-relieving effect when combined with music. However, the combination of CBD or NAX 5055 and music did help relieve inflammation.
When looking at seizures, the researchers found that mice exposed to music experienced significantly fewer seizures. Surprisingly, there were also fewer deaths in the epileptic group of mice exposed to music.
This is the first study to look at the combination of pain relievers and music in animal models of pain. Everyone knows that ibuprofen relieves pain. And researchers have been aware of the pain-relieving effects of music for years. But this study showed that when combined, ibuprofen and music create a synergistic effect that is more potent than either therapy alone.
Moreover, the researchers observed this effect with a relatively low dose of ibuprofen. This means that people could potentially benefit from effective and potent pain-relief without as many unwanted side effects.
The reduced rates of seizures brought on by the music of Mozart confirms previous studies. However, the improvement in mortality rates was an unexpected result. Future research should focus on exploring the effect of music on other models of epilepsy in mice.
What is it about music?
But how does music help relieve pain and stop seizures? Researchers haven’t found a definitive answer yet. But evidence shows that music has positive effects on the nervous system. It can also help lower the stress hormone cortisol.
It’s important to note that the current study didn’t evaluate any potential mechanisms. Researchers still need to design studies to test exactly how music affects our physiology.
This research gives us evidence to support the development of music-based digital technologies that could be combined with traditional pharmaceuticals.
This represents a new triple threat for treating pain. The combination of music and pharmaceutical therapies packaged into a mobile-based application could help relieve pain with fewer adverse side effects. Although promising, researchers still need to investigate similar combinations for treating epilepsy.