Music as Medicine?

http://stringvisions.ovationpress.com/2011/05/string-players-brains-are-special/
Photo courtesy of Ovation Press String Visions

We all know a good song can change our mood. Regardless of genre or artist, our favorite tunes have an amazing ability to give a quick escape from dilemmas we may face. Yet did you know that music can also affect our physical and mental health?

According to an article by USA Today1, studies have shown that music can alleviate pain, improve exercise effort and quality of sleep, and incline people to eat less. In terms of mental health, it can reduce stress, ease symptoms of migraines, relieve symptoms of depression, and even improve cognitive function, something all students can appreciate. Do you often find yourself in high-pressure situations? Perhaps listen to some tunes before the big event- a study found that basketball players improved their performance after listening to upbeat music. It also has therapeutic effects for medical patients before and after surgery.

If you’re interested in the specifics, Medical News Today published an article2 echoing this concept. A review of 400 research papers revealed that music can increase levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody part of the immune system. Cortisol levels decrease when listening to music while dopamine levels increase.

So what is the big takeaway from these findings? For those of us who are already avid music-listeners these facts may seem to be mere positive reinforcements of what we have already experienced. In my opinion, however, the potency of music is not something to be overlooked in the medical field.  If “listening to music was also shown to be more successful than prescription drugs in decreasing a person’s anxiety before undergoing surgery,”2 does this not demonstrate that there are existing, simpler alternatives to the prescription pills our society often associates with our healthcare system? Perhaps the most powerful prescriptions are the simplest ones.

  1. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2013/12/17/health-benefits-music/4053401/
  2. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/258383.php
  3. http://stringvisions.ovationpress.com/2011/05/string-players-brains-are-special/
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