It isn’t such a crazy idea to talk about the intrinsical link between music and health: the Greeks even appointed their god Apollo, with the oversight of both music and healing.
The science behind this concept has been developing for years. Music seems to affect the body and the mind, helping to bring both into a state of well-being. It has the power to slow heartbeats, reduce blood pressure, manage stress levels, and aid patients recovering from heart attacks or strokes.
While the Greeks formalized the relationship between both elements, the importance of music has been observed in all civilizations. Rhythm is something that we seem to be programmed for. We still don’t understand exactly how it affects the brain, or how humans distinguish harmonious sounds from dissonant ones. But what is clear is that music can provide multiple benefits far beyond personal entertainment.
In medical centers, music can be used in different areas with different objectives, from operating rooms to halls and reception areas to waiting rooms. In fact, waiting areas in particular benefit from the use of music.
Waiting rooms often seem designed to induce stress in the patients: white, sad, and sterile. The subtle stimuli from these rooms (or lack thereof) tends to have negative effects on anxious and ill patients, posing an obstacle in an effective treatment. These places should instead induce a relaxed state where the patient finds himself in optimal conditions awaiting next steps in treatment.
Those who consider waiting rooms to be ideal for targeting patients with promotional messages about other services the center offers, can go for it. But for those who like us, who believe that the client and their well-being comes first – let’s talk about music.
A Proven Science
Science backs the concept. Studies show that up to 88% of patients in a waiting room say music helps them improve their mood. And 80% go as far as saying that music affects the work of their doctors.
The same studies confirm that classical music is preferred by patients in this environment, while music commonly known as “new age” also meets the requisites: stable and slow tempo, simple harmonic progressions, and without changes in volume.
One of the best-known experiments in this field is that of a psychologist in the Cognitive Brain Research Unit of the University of Helsinki. Sixty people participated in the study, all of whom had suffered from strokes and experienced direct effects on motor control, speech, and cognitive function. Divided in two groups, the first group listened to their favorite music every day, while the second group did not.
After three months of standard rehab, those who had listened to music they enjoyed had improved their verbal recall by 60%, whereas those who did not listen to music improved only 29%.
A Long List of Benefits
The list of health benefits correlated with music is extensive:
1. The experience of invasive procedures is improved in two ways: those who listen to music in operating rooms show less pain in the procedure, and those who listen to it in the recovery rooms are less prone to needing opioid painkillers.
2. Music helps mitigate speech difficulties when a stroke or damage in the left region of the brain causes them.
3. Strong rhythmic music helps Parkinson’s patients avoid symptoms of paralysis.
4. Listening to music reduces the side effects of cancer treatments – diminishing anxiety, nausea, and vomiting related to chemotherapy.
5. Music lowers the perception of acute pain, reducing the quantity of painkillers needed by patients.
6. Life quality is improved for dementia patients when music they associate with memories is played, even in fairly advanced cases of disease.
Saying that music has healing powers might be going a bit too far. However, what’s true is that in many ways, music helps in the recovery of sick or recovering patients. While experts are still refining the science behind it, the connections between emotions, health, music, and quality of life are undeniable.
One more thing: increasing numbers of experts are pointing out that stressful moments have tangible negative effects. As a defense again stress, music can be our ally in preserving the most important thing in life: our health.