One certainty that mankind has known throughout the ages is that music is healing. It makes people feel energized or calmer, it is soothing and comforting, and it just plain helps people to feel better. Even researchers in the medical field have begun to do studies of how music and sound affects healing and health in general. Everyone acknowledges the old adage “music soothes the savage beast” and it has been found to soothe everything from stress to recovery from surgery. It doesn’t mean that music cures the individual, but it certainly improves both chronic and acute symptoms of many issues, helps with pain and increases quality of life.
A great breakthrough that has had huge success with music and healing is being used in the study of music and Alzheimer’s. In several studies it’s showing that music tends to help relieve the anxiety and frustration associated with Alzheimer’s patients, and helps calm and soothe them. It’s even been found that some with severe Alzheimer’s who have not spoken in many months began to hum or sing with the music; some even singing the words from a song played from their youth. When music can help lower blood pressure, reduce agitation, and relieve anxiety, it has great promise in the medical field for patients with Alzheimer’s and various forms of Dementia.
Music therapy has also been studied with autistic patients who have difficulties interacting with others. Oftentimes, they are agitated when their environment is changed, but researchers are finding that these autistic patients respond extremely well to music therapy to help relieve the stress, induce calmness, and help the younger ones become more socialized. One surprising aspect to the research is that many younger autistic patients are quite skilled in playing musical instruments.
With so many people diagnosed with cancer, one very promising study is being researched with music therapy and cancer patients. When the music is soothing and relaxing the patients seem to have improvement in mood, anxiety, quality of life, and a great way to manage pain. It tends to have an effect on their heart rate, respirations, blood pressure, but even more encouraging is the rate at which it helped ease pain.
Another fascinating study that is ongoing (and quite exciting in the field of music and medicine) is the use of music during surgery. Some studies show that patients who listen to comforting, calming, and relaxing types of music through headphones while the anesthesia is being administered prior to surgery, as well as during the surgery, require up to 50 percent less anesthesia. This is particularly encouraging when piano, harp, orchestra, and slow jazz music is played for surgical patients. It is primarily exciting because most patients have worse side effects from the anesthesia than they do from the actual surgery. This has been a great breakthrough for patients undergoing heart bypass surgery, back surgery, and surgery for broken bones, hysterectomies, and out-patient day surgeries. A great side note is that the surgeon benefits from a different type of music that is energized and uplifting to keep their energy going and help them focus.
Certainly, there are more studies to be done on the effects of music and healing, but maybe the ancient people understood how much music has an effect on life that today’s researchers have yet to rediscover.