Music and Healing


Most nights, before I go to bed, I hook up my mp3 player and my headphones and lay down and listen to celtic music. It is one of those things I use to relax my mind and body. It is the same music over and over again because I have found it works for me.

I have always thought music was a powerful device that can be used for all sorts of things. I heard of a study once that showed that rats exposed to no music versus rats exposed to rap music showed a marked increase in violence in the rap music group of rats. While that could be distressing, it does show the power music can have on our lives.

The same can be said of soothing music helping our body heal and feel better. I found this article in USA Today archives from 2008. I thought it would be interesting for those of us with chronic issues.

Article is from USA Today of June 16, 2008

By Lisa Gill, Special for USA TODAY

Kristen Stewart holds a round, wooden instrument filled with small, metal beads that sounds like waves gently crashing upon a beach. As she rotates it back and forth, Angelina and Audrianna Liew yawn, flutter their eyes and occasionally drift off to sleep.

Any other musician might take offense, but this is exactly the reaction Stewart was hoping for.

Born seven weeks premature, the identical twins have spent 20 days in the neonatal intensive care unit at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. Like most ICUs, with the racket of beeping monitors and buzzing devices, along with the chatter among visitors and staff, the room is anything but a sanctuary for rest.

But for these infants, sleep is crucial to their growth and development.

As a clinical director and music therapist at Beth Israel’s Louis and Lucille Armstrong Music Therapy Program, Stewart specializes in working with premature babies, children and patients with trauma — in this case, showing parents Rick Mei and Shan Liew how to use instruments that mimic heartbeats and womb sounds, as well as their own voices, to comfort their newborns. The goal on this day: to encourage the babies to sleep, become calm and alert, and prepare for feeding.

The twins would go on to spend several more days in the ICU before heading home. Music therapy played a role in their recovery, their mother says.

Beth Israel’s program is one of many efforts by hospitals around the country to use music as a way to ease patients’ pain, lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and depression and improve coping abilities to get patients well, faster.


In harmony with healing


“Often, music therapy is more cost-effective than administering medication, especially for patients with anxiety, sleep disturbances or pain,” says Al Bumanis, spokesman for the American Music Therapy Association.

A 2007 survey of U.S. health facilities by the Society for the Arts in Healthcare, along with the Joint Commission and Americans for the Arts, found that of the 1,923 facilities, 35% offered some type of music to patients.

Besides promoting relaxation and reducing stress, music therapy has been shown to affect sleep patterns, improve stroke patients’ memories and decrease the amount of sedation medication needed for some patients.

Claudius Conrad, senior surgical resident at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, led a study published in December in the journal Critical Care Medicine that attempted to identify changes the body undergoes while listening to music.

The study looked at patients in the ICU who were on mechanical breathing machines. The group that was exposed to Mozart piano sonatas experienced marked decreases in stress hormones and in cytokines — one of the chemicals responsible for regulating the body’s response to trauma.

There was also a substantial increase in the production of growth hormones, which helps the body regulate metabolism, particularly during sleep. The result was a reduction in blood pressure, lowered heart rate and less need for medication to keep patients sedated, compared with the control group, Conrad says.

“If patients could be exposed to music in the ICU … they would survive more often, they would leave the ICU faster,” he says. “This would also save costs.”


From preemies to stroke victims


Other recent studies have further confirmed the benefits of music on healing.

Patients admitted to a hospital in Helsinki, Finland, after a severe stroke listened to recorded music for at least an hour daily. Compared with those who either listened to audiobooks or nothing, music patients recovered their verbal memory faster, as well as experienced less depression, according to a study in the March issue of the journal Brain.

• Playing two hours of recorded Mozart each week to premature babies lowered their heart rate and helped induce sleep, according to researchers at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York. That study has not yet been submitted for publication in a medical journal.

• Terminally ill patients in Australia who had a single music therapy session were found to have less anxiety, pain and drowsiness compared with those who did not listen to music, according to a study published in the May Journal of Palliative Medicine.

Not all studies are in concert about music’s therapeutic benefits. In a 2004 Cochrane Databaseof Systemic Reviews, researchers evaluating 51 studies found that while music reduced patients’ perceptions of pain and the need for pain medication, the total benefit was minor.

But try telling that to Kim Febres, a music therapist at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown (N.J.) Memorial Hospital. As Febres strums and sings the first few notes of a popular tune about Naples, Rosa Dotro, 71, an Italian immigrant who has stomach cancer, pushes aside her dinner, wipes the tears streaking her cheeks and sings along in a high, clear voice along, “Saaaanta Lucia! Santa Lucia!”

When they finish, Dotro tells Febres she is worried about having surgery and asks to hear the song again.

“Sing!” Dotro orders. “You can do this all night if you want. I feel better already.”


  E-mail | Save | Print | // <![CDATA[
var tempshowReprintSSI = “”;if(window.showReprintSSI){tempshowReprintSSI = showReprintSSI;} if ((navigator.os.indexOf(“Mac”)==1) && (navigator.type==2)) { // macIE if((document.forms.hiddenValForm.hiddenMacPrintValue.value == “0”) || (document.forms.hiddenValForm.hiddenMacPrintValue.value==”2″)) { if(document.forms.hiddenValForm.hiddenMacPrintValue.value == “2”){ document.forms.hiddenValForm.hiddenMacPrintValue.value = “0”; } else{ document.forms.hiddenValForm.hiddenMacPrintValue.value = “1”; } if(tempshowReprintSSI == ‘showReprintSSI’){ writeReprintLink(); } writeSubscribeToLink(); } else { document.forms.hiddenValForm.hiddenMacPrintValue.value = “2”; } } else {// non macIE – write top and bottom if(tempshowReprintSSI == ‘showReprintSSI’){ writeReprintLink(); } writeSubscribeToLink(); } function writeReprintLink(){ document.write(‘Reprints & Permissions | ‘); } function writeSubscribeToLink(){ var url = document.location.toString(); var urlArray = url.split(“/”) var nurl = “”; for (i = 3; i < urlArray.length – 1; i++) { if(i<urlArray.length-2){ nurl += urlArray[i] + “|”; } else { nurl += urlArray[i]; } } document.write(‘Subscribe to stories like this‘); }
// ]]>Subscribe to stories like this


2 thoughts on “Music and Healing

Comments are closed.