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Hit me with music

By Timothy Cocks Metaphor and language 24 Sep 2014

Our good friend from Belgium, Wouter Ramboer, recently shared an amazing story of injury without pain, olfactory hallucination and our ability to construct protective responses to stimuli that we’re not even aware of.

Wouter has sent us another great piece that fits nicely with the theme of play from a previous post this week and raises some great thoughts in regards to a modern, neuroimmune-powered-up biopsychosocial approach to the treatment of pain.

I couple of months ago I visited a good friend of mine to see his newborn child. Actually, ‘newborn’ might be a bit inaccurate as I was a little late, maybe, in undertaking this important task. The little fella is already one year old. But hey, I went didn’t I? It was a nice relaxed environment, we had a beer to celebrate the ‘birth’ of my friend’s son and we put on some old records. You know how it goes- we reminisced about old times – life before kids, past girlfriends… you know the drill. Suddenly it struck me that the little dude started to really move to the music – laughing and having great fun. Before the music he was quite still, just quietly looking at the ceiling…

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled by accident into a dancing class (it’s a long story), I made my excuses and apologised for causing any bother, but I was very kindly asked if I wanted to stay and watch. Why not? So I did. The class was learning some new tricks – movements, steps; some complicated choreography. I saw frowning faces, stiff and robotic types of movement. But, when the teacher turned up the stereo and had some music pumping out of the speakers the same stiff and awkward movements performed just a minute earlier were all of a sudden smoother – they just flowed and a lot less missteps occurred. It was as if there was less thinking involved- more dancing. There was also laughter, the frowning faces disappeared and everybody seemed to be having a good time and enjoying themselves…

Yesterday I paid a visit to my aunt who’s living in a retirement home. Nothing much was going on in the mutual space where a lot of older folks where sipping their coffees and rating their cakes. Lots of relaxed chatting, but movement wise, nothing much was happening. A young nurse came into the room and asked if it was ok to turn on the radio. Everyone was happy with that and so she did. The atmosphere changed completely and immediately – a popular Belgian song played and everyone started to smile, some of the residents got up and did some weird-looking dance moves (it must be an age difference thing), others kept sitting but were swinging their arms in the air (like they just didn’t care) and swaying to the old tune…

These 3 examples show me that changing the environment with music – changing the context, leads to big alterations in outputs – mood, behaviour, movement, and I’m certain, things that you can’t immediately observe – hormones, neurotransmitters, endogenous opioids, cytokines and more. 

Should we let our patients bring their favourite music to treatment sessions?

Could this help create an environment – a positive atmosphere and context, where it is fun, and safe, to move?

Will this help in turning down pain or even liberating it completely?

Wouter Ramboer


Music is a big part of life at noi – in the office and at our courses. One of our all time favourite lyrics is from Bob Marley and the song Trenchtown Rock:

One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain

One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain

So hit me with music, hit me with music now

Hit me with music, hit me with music now

I couldn’t resist borrowing this line for the title to Wouter’s brilliant post.

Here’s Bob Marley and the Wailers performing Trenchtown Rock Live at the Rainbow


-Tim Cocks



  1. I often feel like turning up the volume at work and getting the place pumping, but my taste in music is not everyone’s. Hard to find popular/cool music which will appeal to a large audience. Any suggestions?


    1. Hi EG
      Only suggestion would be to avoid anything popular/cool! Go with some classics or something a bit different and quirky. During noi courses, Bob Marley will regularly get a spin, as will a bit of Kris Kristofferson, maybe even some Edith Piaf, Slim Dusty or some little known artist whose music Dave bought at last years Womad World Music festival. It’s very unlikely that anyone will be tired of hearing this music as a result of it being played over and over on the radio, being a bit different adds some interesting context and if it’s older music, there’s a good chance it might light up some old, uncontaminated neurotags!
      If i was in a clinical setting nowadays, I think I’d like to ask people what music they liked, and importantly – made them feel good, as part of a subjective and ask if it was ok with them to have some playing at appropriate stages in the background – YouTube and a decent internet connection will take care of even the most unusual tastes in music!

      1. Hi tim,
        I like the idea of activating uncontaminated neurotags! I often post some tweet that start with “on todays brainradio” , the ability of hearing a song without it being on the radio (doing it right now, CCR- little travelling band)… A bit of graded music imagery if you like…
        Is it enough to mention the songs and take them back to a ‘happy place’? Or talking/ mentioning a poem the patient likes?

  2. davidbutler0noi

    We were doing some “virtual body exercises” at a recent GMI course. By virtual body exercises I mean doing actual movements but where the target is perturbed outputs (eg pain, spasm and the outputs you don’t see such as immune and endocrine responses) evoked by that movement. It’s all about breaking down the movements and in particular, employing contextual variations of which music is a potent one.

    We were doing a lab on painful walking and limping and I noted a latter day hippie course member walking on a line humming a bit of Johnny Cash before swaggering along to Nancy Sinatra’s “these boots are made for walking”. “She’s definitely got it” I thought !


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