Your favorite song comes on the radio and you instantly get "that feeling." You're automatically transported back in time to a moment that you'll never forget - and you'll never get tired of reliving. Or how about when you’re watching a scary movie and the creepy, ominous music makes your heart race? Or when you’re suffering from disease...and music heals you?
It’s not quite that simple, but studies have shown music can be a powerful tool to help improve our health. Offering both mental and physical benefits, music can provide relief and enhance our lives on many fronts.
The right melody supplies harmony in the following measures:
Music can be a great method for pain management, as revealed by several studies. Examples include:
- Patients who underwent hernia repair surgery required less morphine to manage their pain if they listened to music post-surgery.
- People suffering from fibromyalgia, a disease causing severe musculoskeletal pain, experienced less pain and fewer depressive symptoms than other fibromyalgia patients, after listening to music every day for four weeks.
- Spinal surgery patients who listened to music the night before surgery and until the day after surgery had less pain than those who didn’t listen to music.
Tunes can also decrease anxiety, especially during stressful or painful events. Studies have shown music can keep heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels low. In one study, music had a more powerful effect on reducing stress in surgery patients than oral drugs.
Can music even prevent disease? It has been shown to boost the immune system, which protects us from illness. So, in a way, yes. Researchers report that subjects who listened to music had significant increases in IgA, an antibody our immune system uses to defend against disease. In another study, patients who listened to music showed decreased blood levels of interleukin-6, a protein that has been linked to diabetes and heart disease.
Our favorite magical melodies also seem to help our recall. One study on foreign language learning revealed that adults who sang phrases in a new language were better at recalling the words than those who simply spoke the phrases. In other research, stroke patients who listened to music daily made significantly more improvements on verbal memory and focused attention than other groups. Additionally, people with musical training tend to do better on tests requiring memory and attention.
Dementia patients also benefited from music in a study that provided them with ten weeks of musical coaching or singing. After those ten weeks, the patients showed improved memory, mood, orientation and attention.
Music or Meds?
Music offers all of these advantages, without the side effects of drugs we take to achieve similar results. Perhaps music is better than meds.
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