If you’re here – you already know that music helps with chronic pain. But your mood ultimately decides what you end up listening to. So when a bad day hits, I like to have these 5 different playlists with me: 

  1. Pick-me-up tunes 
  2. Songs for relaxation 
  3. Motivational tracks 
  4. Songs when you need a fat cry 
  5. Nature sounds and meditation 

Music is its own form of medicine. But the way you appreciate it will be different from the person next to you (or from me). We attach it to our memories, emotions, decisions and so much more. 

So what I want to make clear is that these playlists are important for what they represent – the mood you want to work on. And, of course, to give you a little bit of song inspiration. 


Music as a Distraction From Pain

Before I dive into the playlists I want to talk about music and its effects on chronic pain. If you feel like your pain lessens when you listen to good music – it’s not all in your head. 


Music is proven to alleviate pain for so many reasons. But here are the main ones:  

It helps your body recover from stress better.

– which plays an integral role in pain management.

We all know how badly stress can affect your pain and why it’s important to monitor it for pain management. And music can help!

Music is proven to work on your autonomic nervous system, which handles your stress response. This means that when you suffer anything stressful, music will help you bounce back faster. 

It helps you get better sleep.

Here’s another important aspect of pain management to consider – sleep deprivation can undoubtedly make living with chronic pain so much worse. And yet again, music can help. 

Not only can listening to the right music help you fall asleep more easily. But research also shows that it can help improve your quality of sleep too. 

So if anyone is judging you for falling asleep to whale calls – you can give them a whole bunch of studies to look through as you walk away and snap your fingers. 

It lifts your mood and can help with depression.

Depression and chronic pain are two things that often go hand-in-hand – I learnt this the hard way. I was never one to struggle with mental health until I got my CRPS diagnosis. 

I’ll admit it candidly – music isn’t enough to completely alleviate my depression. But if I use it in the right way, it does a damn good job! 

Again, there’s science behind this too. Listening to happy music can lift your mood and help you build self-awareness. And if you suffer from depression – you may find more sustainable relief through music therapy. 

What is Music Therapy? 

There’s a big difference between using music as therapy and the practice of music therapy. 


If you’re listening to music at home, learning dance moves and keeping that hair comb steady in your hand as you sing in the shower – that’s music as therapy. 

It’s a useful and effective way of getting music to help you manage your chronic pain – as we’ve just discussed. But it can be taken a step further. 

Music therapy is an alternative treatment where your specific needs are combined with your musical taste to create a set of therapeutic musical activities to help you manage your stress levels, mood and overall mental health sustainably. 

This is a super interesting field of research and something I would consider looking into if you love music and experience its benefits regularly. 

If you want to learn more about it and the extended ways that music can help with chronic pain, you need to check this article out: The Benefits of Music Therapy for Chronic Pain Management 

5 Chronic Pain Playlists

I’m super excited to share my chronic pain playlists with you. They’ve taken me a long time to develop and have gotten me through some pretty rough times. 


The value in these playlists are: 

  1. Convenient

    There’s nothing worse than having a bad pain day, getting into bed and then having to mess around on your phone to keep finding songs you’re in the mood to hear.
  2. Universal

    These playlists aren’t about being terribly unique or alternative. They’re here to fulfil a fundamental purpose: to make you feel comfortable and boost your mood in a specific way. 

    I love music and I’m open to listening to almost everything. But these set of playlists cover songs that are all, in some way, classics or well-known songs.

    They do cover most of your main bases (i.e. classic hits, pop, rap, rock, jazz, indie etc.) and appeal to the general public.
  3. Adaptable 

    Just like clothes, your taste in music changes and so do your moods. What made you feel good in 2010 may not do the trick for you anymore. (I know I certainly don’t listen to David Guetta "Sexy Bitch" nearly as much.)

    But the objective of the playlist should never change and nor do its needs. So when you’re tired of a song – remove it and add something else. It doesn’t matter how the playlist evolves, as long as it fulfils your emotional needs.  

Note: Playlist Ranking  

I’ve put a small ranking system for each playlist which will tell you my recommended time to listen to these songs depending on your pain, emotional state and head clarity. 

Because let’s be honest, not every day is a Bohemian Rhapsody day, even if it’s an awesome song!

Pick me up tunes

I’ve been told that my taste in pick-me-up tunes can get a little cheesy – but isn’t that kind of the point? Relaxing into the classics that are always the best songs to dance to and will, always, always, be played at weddings? 

When is the best time to listen to these songs… 

Pain levels: moderate to low 
Emotional state: unhappy or experiencing bouts of depression 
Head clarity: relatively clear  

Songs for relaxation

These are the kinds of songs I like to have in the background most of the time. They keep me calm, collected and help me think clearly when my stress response is overactive.

When is the best time to listen to these songs… 

Pain levels: not essential – but useful when they’re moderate to high 
Emotional state: stressed, anxious, overwhelmed or scattered 
Head clarity: unclear or busy 

Motivational tracks

These may sound similar to the pick-me-up tunes, but they serve an entirely different purpose. Your motivational tracks are there to rev you up when you need to take action on something. 

So beyond making you feel good, these songs are here to empower you. I particularly like these songs when I’m working out or have a challenging deadline that I need to finish. 

When is the best time to listen to these songs… 

Pain levels: moderate to low 
Emotional state: uninspired or unmotivated to take action  
Head clarity: relatively clear  

Songs when you need a fat cry

Before you get to a point where you’re ready to feel good about yourself – sometimes you need a fat cry first and let it all out. 

Coping with chronic pain, whether it’s the emotional or physical effects, can’t happen if you don’t let yourself experience all those bottled up feelings first. 

It’s a bit like trying to paint a wall pink to make it happy, but it’s still got a whole bunch of cracks that need to be filled first. 

So these songs are here to help you let those tears out in what is hopefully, a therapeutic way. 

When is the best time to listen to these songs… 

Pain levels: any pain levels 
Emotional state: unhappy or experiencing bouts of depression 
Head clarity: usually unclear 

Nature sounds and meditation

If you’re ready to zen out – this is the playlist to listen to. I love to have it on standby when I do my yoga or when I need to study. 

But most importantly, I use this playlist to work on my body’s ability to bounce back from stress most effectively. When my workload is piling on and I can feel my cortisol levels are rising – it doesn’t take long before my pain gets worse too. 

There are lots of studies done on the relaxing effects of nature sounds, particularly water – and it’s been proven that nature really does have the power to calm people down. 

So if you can’t go to the ocean every time you’re stressed – why not bring the ocean to you?

When is the best time to listen to these songs… 

Pain levels: any pain levels, but usually high 
Emotional state: stressed, anxious or overwhelmed 
Head clarity: unclear or foggy  

Isochronic Tone Suggestions

If you haven’t heard of isochronic tone therapy before – don’t worry you’re not alone. This isn’t exactly music, but it’s worth including and here’s why: 

Isochronic tones are referred to as “brainwave entertainment techniques”. 

They are rhythmic pulses, or frequencies, that are usually embedded in natural sounds. And the idea is that these frequencies can sync with your natural brain waves and encourage specific states of mind. 

Now I promise you this isn’t fringe science, it’s being actively studied because it is proving to have beneficial results for things like pain, anxiety, sleep, attention span and even memory. 

Even though isochronic tones are still being trialled, they don’t have any negative side effects on chronic pain if you want to try and listen to them or use them therapeutically. 

I personally find them useful for calming down and clearing up brain fog a bit. And if you like to meditate, then you’ve probably already listened to them! 

Here’s a playlist with a couple of isochronic tone tracks which you should definitely try out. I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether it helped you manage your stress too. 

Making Your Own Chronic Pain Playlist

​​​I’m no music expert here, but I’ve definitely gained some experience in using music for chronic pain over the last 12 years. If you’re ready to make your own playlists, here’s what you need to remember: 


The theme is key.

I’ve mentioned this a couple of times and it is the foremost important part of making a good playlist. The songs can change but the purpose of the playlist needs to be clear. 

Pain can leave you with a whole bunch of different emotions and obstacles to work through – I get it. 

So if there’s something in particular you feel can be guided through music, that’s your chance to make a really useful playlist. 

Ask yourself: 

  • What is this playlist meant to do for me? 
  • When do I want to listen to it? 
  • Why is it worth having? 

When it comes to songs, variety is the spice of life.

When you add any song to your playlist – make sure you’re adding it for a reason. Don’t simply bulk up on songs that are in the same album because that defeats the purpose of a chronic pain playlist. 

Each song needs to really resonate with you and enhance a specific emotion to promote relaxation, happiness and pain alleviation etc. 

So don’t rush the process. Be patient, and wait until you find a great addition to the playlist before you add anything new. If this is going to work – each song needs to be a 10/10. 

That combination of incredible songs is what makes a playlist powerful enough to help you. 

Train yourself to find good music.

One of the only ways to find music we resonate with is to get out there and look for it. 

You need to keep your playlists relatively fresh and exciting if you’re going to keep getting the same benefit from them as a chronic pain patient. 

The minute you’re bored of a song, it no longer has the same healing benefits to your body and you need to change it up. 

  • If you’re in the car and you hear an amazing song on the radio – Shazam it immediately. 
  • When you’re with your friends and family, ask them what they’re listening to at the moment.
  • Or if you’re at home and have some time, take 5 minutes to Google “The best of…” whatever genre and era you’re into. 
  •  Finally, make use of music review platforms like Spotify that will use your searches to give you music suggestions – they’re surprisingly good at finding new music for you.

    Other sites you can try include Bandcamp, Soundcloud, or Gnoosic

As much as I love my own playlists and have had positive feedback from others. I’d really like to know if you found my song suggestions useful for your chronic pain? 

If there’s anything you feel I should add, I would love to hear the songs you have in mind. 

Finally, if you want a lot of hardcore facts about the benefits of music for chronic pain, you should check out my article: The Benefits of Music Therapy for Chronic Pain Management

Otherwise, stay well, stay strong and happy listening! 

About the author, Marina

Marina Wildt is an experienced health and wellness writer, chronic illness warrior and founder of The Discerning You. In the last 12 years, she has gone from being paralysed in a wheelchair to living a full life alongside her conditions and now she wants to share all the practical advice that she has learnt with you.

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