Tunes to soothe: The healing power of music

It's long been known that listening to music can ease stress – but scientists are discovering that it has a powerful effect on pain, immunity – and even recovery from heart attacks.

The sound of piano music coming from the operating theatre was the first clue that something unusual was afoot. As the theatre doors swung open and the trolley was wheeled in, the patient was greeted by a smiling surgeon sitting at a piano playing "The More I See You". As the surgeon played on, with random extracts from other piano works, the patient was sedated and prepared for surgery. With the patient and theatre team ready, the music finally stopped, and the surgeon stood up and began his day job.

The experiment in Hawaii, a world first, was testing whether music has an effect on health, pain and vital signs, such as blood pressure and heart and breathing rates, as well as levels of hormones and antibodies. Meanwhile, a second team of researchers has found that music has a powerful effect on the immune system, boosting compounds that defend the body against infections.

Evidence is growing that music can have a beneficial effect for patients. Researchers have been looking for effects in conditions as varied as stroke, autism, heart problems, mental health, depression, pain, fractured limbs, Alzheimer's and lung disease. Piped music has been used to ease anxiety before operations, and harp music to reduce pain after surgery, with some research suggesting it can be as effective as the sedative Valium.

Listening to music has been found to aid recovery after a stroke and heart attack. A study of 60 men and women at Helsinki University found that patients who listened to music soon after having a stroke recovered better. Three months after the stroke, memory had improved by 60 per cent in those provided with music, compared to 29 per cent in a control group. Concentration, mood and attention to detail also improved in the music group by 17 per cent, compared to no change in the other.

Source - Independent

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