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Music and Healing

Research shows the healing effect of music.

Google “medical myths” and you’ll get some surprises about things you thought were either good or bad for you.

For instance, late night snacking doesn’t make us fatter and drinking eight glasses of water daily doesn’t make us healthier. Who knew?

But one of the most enduring medical myths of all, perhaps the mother of all medical myths, is that traditional drug and surgery based medicine is the only way to be healthy.

Case in point: Some medical professionals are finding that you can enhance your memory, reduce pain, counteract depression and relax at the same time... without drugs or surgery. How?

Turn on some music. A Mayo Clinic blog tells us: “Much research has been done on the physical and emotional effects of music."

Some of the benefits that have been noted in research include:

  • Improves communication
  • Enhances memory
  • Reduces pain sensation
  • Counteracts depression
  • Promotes activity (i.e. dancing, exercise)
  • Encourages feelings of relaxation
  • Calms and sedates (promotes sleep)

A report from Health magazine tell us, “Researchers from Drexel University found that cancer patients who either listened to music or worked with a music therapist experienced a reduction in anxiety. Evidence was examined from 1,891 cancer patients who took part in 13 trials that used music therapists and 17 trials that used pre-recorded music. Compared to standard treatments, music was associated with a considerable reduction in anxiety, along with benefits in mood, pain, heart and respiratory rates, and blood pressure, according to a systematic review by the Cochrane Collaboration, which evaluates primary research and evidence-based medicine.”

The Cleveland Clinic Arts and Medicine Institute tells us, “Fine art is good medicine. As one of the world’s great medical centers, Cleveland Clinic has always included the arts in its healing environment.”

Dr. Lisa Wong is a pediatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Milton Pediatrics. She also just finished a 20-year run as president of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra. And that’s not all.

She is also the author of a new book, Scales to Scalpels: Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine, which examines the link between music and medicine. In a recent Boston Globe interview, Dr. Wong said:

“Music has a way of reaching a deeper core in a person than sometimes can be touched in any other way, even beyond words. With autistic children, with patients with Alzheimer’s — people who have lost their verbal language still have musical language. Young [amputees] who don’t want to put in an hour a day of occupational therapy will practice [a musical instrument] for 10 hours a day just to get things right. The music is driving them, and their executive function skills improve, their focus comes back, their self-esteem [builds].”

Music is also effective in counteracting one of health’s biggest enemies—depression. I remember the hopeless sadness I felt right after my dad’s passing. I was looking out at a blurry, bleak landscape, trying to find my way out of the darkness. At one point I decided that listening to my father’s favorite music, Beethoven’s 9th symphony, might help a little. When the famous “Ode to Joy” in the 4th movement started up, it felt like I was at the very source of all joy, and that joy was infinitely more powerful than grief. I could literally feel the grief dissolve. It never returned.

There’s no doubt that music can be a powerful healing force in life. As the search for health continues to look beyond drug and surgery-based management of symptoms, we will continue to discover deeper, more permanent solutions that have always been there. Like music... always ready to soothe, inspire... and heal.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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