Perspectives on Music Imagery and complex chronic pain — llan Sanfi & Erik Christensen

Special Issue 9 (2) 2017 “Guided Imagery and Music: Contemporary European perspectives and developments” – Article (published on 22 December 2017)

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Perspectives on Music Imagery and complex chronic pain 

llan Sanfi & Erik Christensen  


The aim of the article is to examine the concept of chronic pain as a complex phenomenon and to highlight the potential role of music therapy – in particular, music imagery – in the treatment of chronic pain. Theories of pain, along with research on pain pathways and pain control in the nervous system, support the evidence from clinical practice that music interventions can alleviate the sensation of pain whilst also offering a pleasant aesthetic experience. Music therapy provides opportunities for processing psychological and existential issues and enables patients to better cope with chronic pain. Related research in neuroscience and music medicine provides supplementary evidence that music can have a considerable impact on the physiological and psychological aspects of pain. This article summarises selected theoretical, clinical, and research–based knowledge relevant for music therapy clinicians and other health professionals aiming to alleviate chronic pain.


music therapy, music imagery, complex chronic pain, theory, research, clinical implications


Ilan Sanfi is a music therapist (BA, MA) and PhD graduate from Aalborg University (Denmark). In addition, he is a composer and trained in the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery of Music. He is affiliated to Child and Adolescent Health, Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark where he is principal investigator for a Danish-Norwegian research project on music imagery in child oncology. Besides that, he has clinical experience as a music therapist with adults with various types of chronic pain.

Erik Christensen is a musicologist and did his PhD ‘Music Listening, Music Therapy, Phenomenology and Neuroscience’ (2012) at Aalborg University, Denmark. He is a visiting researcher at Aalborg University and author of ‘The Musical Timespace. A Theory of Music Listening’ (1996).