Music Heals

courtesy of MCC

Plato said, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.”

Music is an integral part of our lives. It communicates messages and emotions not easily expressed, beckons our hearts and soothes our spirits.

There is growing evidence that the melodies that make up the soundtrack of your life—the tunes you crank up on your morning commute, at your desk or while you make dinner—can be overwhelmingly beneficial to your overall health. A study from researchers at the Cleveland Clinic focused on the use of music for brain surgery patients who are required to be awake during their procedures. They found that music helped the patients manage anxiety, reduce pain and relax more fully during their procedures.

In another study titled, “The Effect of Music Intervention in Stress Response to Cardiac Surgery in a Randomized Clinical Trial,” a team of Swedish researchers measured serum cortisol, heart rate, respiratory rate, mean arterial pressure, arterial oxygen tension, arterial oxygen saturation and subjective pain and anxiety levels for patients who had undergone cardiothoracic surgery. Those who were allowed to listen to music during recuperation had lower cortisol levels than those who rested without music.

Many doctors now play music while operating or allow patients to pop in their ear buds and get lost in song to calm their nerves during in-office procedures.

According to Caring Voice Coalition, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of patients with chronic illnesses, music has also been shown to enhance memory and stimulate both sides of the brain, which may help individuals recover from a stroke or those suffering from cognitive impairments.

Music also has a positive impact on one’s mood. Neuroscientists have discovered that listening to music stimulates the production of dopamine, heightening positive emotions through the reward centers of the brain.

Some researchers think that music may help improve immune response, promoting faster recovery from illness. Undergraduate students at Wilkes University measured the levels of IgA— an important antibody for the immune system’s first line of defense against disease— from saliva. Levels were measured before and after 30 minutes of exposure to various sounds, including music. Soothing melodies produced significantly greater increases in IgA.

All of this isn’t to mention that music therapy is now commonplace in many doctor’s offices, nursing homes and hospitals. The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), founded in 1998, cites the growing field of music therapy as “an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of individuals.”

A highly nuanced field of study, music therapists hold bachelor’s degrees or higher in music therapy and are well versed in biology, psychology, social and behavioral sciences. Sessions can either be active— in which clients participate in making music, or receptive—in which clients listen to music. Treatment outcomes for a wide array of conditions have shown to be successful, including decreased levels of depression and enhanced social and emotional skills in Alzheimer’s patients, enhanced feelings of control, confidence and empowerment in victims of trauma and improved respiration, lower blood pressure and relaxed muscle tension in pain management patients.

So, turn up the stereo, dust off your vinyl records or let your iTunes play from dawn to dusk; your body, heart and mind will thank you for it.


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