The power of music

The power of music:  this theme is borrowed from a 2015 article published in Medical News Today titled, “The power of music: how it can benefit health”.   I recently discovered this web-based outlet for medical news, Medical News Today,  which is based in Brighton, England.  With more than 275,000 articles published since 2003, I am grateful to know about this resource.  Today I’d like to describe the key points of this article as a testament to the power of music.  The full article summarizes a breadth of research, and can be found here:   Below are some ideas to consider.

“The elements of music – rhythm, melody, etc. – are echoed in our physiology, functioning and being.” (American Music Therapy Association) Music has been shown to be effective in reducing pain and anxiety.  Many researchers believe one reason is because listening to music triggers the release of opioids in the brain, the body’s natural pain relievers. “If music was a drug, it would be marketable. Music is a noninvasive, safe, cheap intervention that should be available to everyone undergoing surgery.” (Brunel University)

Music is an effective stress reliever.  According to some researchers, music may help alleviate stress by lowering the body’s cortisol levels – the hormone released in response to stress.  The process of entrainment – when body movements and/or functions synchronize to a beat – has been shown to regulate body systems, lower blood pressure, and slow heart rate. (Levitin)

There are further benefits between music and memory. Singing rather than just repeating increases memory retention.  Singing and music listening have been shown to improve episodic memory in Alzheimer’s patients.

And music is effective in helping recover brain injury and treat seizures.  Increasingly, research is indicating that music can help aid recovery from brain injury – such as that from stroke, or as a treatment strategy for epilepsy. “Persons with epilepsy may use the music to relax; stress causes seizures to occur.”(Wexner Medical Center)

The article concludes by suggesting that music therapy should be utilized more in health care settings; and I would add in all personal care rituals. But it is important that there is a standard of practice when it comes to Music Care.  A colleague of mine has created a Music Care training program based in the GTA. Her Room 217 organization offers training, resources and mentoring for care givers –broadly defined as teachers, nurses, PSWs, music therapists, family members in caregiving roles, clergy, and more. Training and resources allow caregivers to integrate therapeutic music resources into their specific situations.  There are CD sets of calming, healing music available for use at home, in hospital, or in healing practices, as well as links to Music Care conferences and resources.  You do not need to be a musician to benefit from the numerous resources offered by Room 217.  You can learn more about Bev Foster and Music Care training here.

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