A study out of Brunel University in the UK found that music may be able to help reduce pain and anxiety in people that have undergone surgery.
The researchers analysed 72 trials involving more than 7,000 patients who had had surgery. They found that those who were played music after their surgery reported less pain and anxiety than those who did not listen to music. These people who had music played to them also were less likely to need pain medication.
Interestingly, they found that the effect was even stronger when they got to choose what to listen to.
Another study found that music decreases pain in Fibromyalgia patients.
Music as a stress reliever
Listening to music can help reduce stress too. A study found that when babies listened to music they remained calmer for longer than when they were spoken to. The researchers suggested that the repetitive pattern of the music that the babies listened to, reduced stress, possibly by promoting “entrainment” – the ability of the body’s internal rhythms to synchronize with external rhythms, pulses or beats. Interesting hey!
Another study found that music can reduce anxiety and stress in children, independent of social factors.
The thought is that music may help reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels. Cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone. So called ‘relaxing music’ has the biggest effect on cortisol levels.
Another possible mechanism is by music’s effect on brainstem-mediated measures, such as; pulse, heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. Again this is music type dependent. Fast stimulating music tends to increase cardiovascular measures, whilst slow music tends decrease heart rate, respiration and blood pressure.
Music to enhance memory
Music has also been shown to enhance memory. A study published in Gerontologist in 2014 looked at the effect of music on memory recall in people with early stage dementia. 89 people with dementia and their caregivers were randomly assigned to either a 10 week singing coaching group, a 10 week music listening group or usual care.
They found that both the signing and music listening group demonstrated better memory on cognitive assessments but also had better mood and overall well-being than the usual care group.
The authors concluded "Regular musical leisure activities can have long-term cognitive, emotional, and social benefits in mild/moderate dementia and could therefore be utilized in dementia care and rehabilitation."
Music as a tool to help recover from brain injury
A study from Finland in 2008 found that stroke patients who listened to music for around 2 hours daily had better verbal memory and attention and a more positive mood than those who listened to an audio book or nothing at all.
Other studies have suggested that music may aid speech recovery following a stroke too.
What make of this
I find this type of research very interesting. It is amazing how powerful listening to music can be. If simply listening to music can help reduce pain and anxiety and help recover from brain injuries etc, surely it should be included in more medical treatment plans. It will be interesting to see where the research goes in the future and if music becomes a bigger part of general health care.
In the meantime, listen to your favorite music, with the findings of these studies, your body will thank you for it.