Dr Michael Mosley: The ‘natural high’ that may help pain relief – ‘better than any tablet’
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Doctor Michael Mosley explained the science behind the simple activity that can give you a “natural high”, relieving chronic pain. The BBC Radio 4 podcast explained what it is, how it can help with pain and other benefits linked to it.
The just one thing the doctor was trying in this episode was singing.
“I’m looking to research which suggests that singing is a great way to boost mood and reduce anxiety,” said doctor Mosley.
But these aren’t the only pros of this simple activity, as research shows that singing in a choir can help to relieve chronic pain.
Here’s the science explaining how.
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Doctor Mosley said: “When we sing, music taps directly into our reward network. It activates and lights up structures in the brain releasing feel-good hormones like dopamine.
“But singing can also give us another type of high.”
The doctor explained: “Endocannabinoids are a group of chemicals that we naturally make in our bodies and which have a very similar structure to those found in the cannabis plant.”
Not only are these chemicals similar to the plant, they can also produce similar effects.
Research from the University of Nottingham, involving the podcast host, found that a 30-minute session of group singing boosted blood levels of endocannabinoids by a “whopping 42 percent”.
Doctor Mosley said: “If you want to experience a natural high, then do give singing a go.
“And [this] may also help with pain relief.
“Many people living with chronic pain report better control of their breathing and needing fewer painkillers when singing with a choir.”
“One guy told me that he found it better than all the tablets in the world,” added the doctor.
The podcast’s guest doctor Daisy Fancourt, who is Associate Professor of Psychology and Epidemiology at University College London, also confirmed that with singing, researchers are seeing “reductions in chronic pain”.
The podcast host told her: “It’s fascinating that if you suffer from chronic pain, you could potentially in the future go to your GP and they might prescribe a visit to the choir.”
Doctor Fancourt responded: “It’s not just in the future, it’s already happening.”
She explained that around England, there are clinical commissioning groups with choirs and various art programmes in place.
People with chronic pain and other problems are being referred here. “The results coming back are fantastic,” she added.
How to start?
So, if this is something you want to give a go, the guest doctor recommended starting with five minutes as this marks the time after which researchers are seeing results.
Doctor Fancourt suggested: “I think the five-minute rule is a great one to start with particularly if you associate it with another behaviour that you always do like having a shower or making breakfast because that way it’s easy to do without forgetting about it.”
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