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The Real Deal on Music Medicine

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Posted Feb 28th, 2017 in Articles, General

The Real Deal on Music Medicine

Have you ever heard your favourite up-beat song on the radio and found your mood instantly changed? If so, you can understand how powerful music is and why Music Medicine really works! Music Medicine has been used since the beginning of culture, yet so few people know about its vast range of benefits for people of all ages. The Medical Station wants you to gain a better understanding of what Music Medicine is and how it works, so you could consider using it as a part of your medical care.


Music Medicine vs. Music Therapy

Music Medicine is practice of listening to prerecorded music for treatment or management of disease. This is different than Music Therapy, which is a discipline that uses the making of music with the assistance of a Music Therapist in order to promote or maintain health. Both Music Medicine and Music Therapy have shown to be very effective and have a vast range of applications including neonatal care, mental illness, pain management and geriatrics. Which kind of music intervention to use depends on the individual and the symptoms they are dealing with, and both therapies can even be used together. It is also important to consider, when speaking about Music Medicine and Music Therapy, that different kinds of music can elicit different kinds of emotions, moods and effects on your health. Most notably, calming vs. energetic music provoke opposite responses and are used for different things when it comes to Music Medicine and Therapy. Also, results can even vary between individuals based on their personal taste in music.

Does it actually work?

The applications of Music Medicine are endless. One of the most clearly established effects of Music Medicine is its positive impact on patients after surgery. In fact, it has been shown in both adults and children that listening to music post-operatively decreased the amount of required pain-managing medications as well as decreased distress.  Music also has a role in the operating room, where calming music can increase sedation, as well as lower blood pressure and heart rate, therefore decreasing the risk of complications. An article published in 2009 looking at the effects of Music Medicine (in contrast to Music Therapy) in cancer patients and found that Music Medicine “improves symptom management, embodies hope for survival, and helps connect to a pre-illness self”.  Up-tempo music has even shown to improve walking in the elderly and patients with Parkinson’s disease and has shown to increase cognition and muscular strength in patients following a stroke.

How does it work?

While scientists are working in order to fully understand how Music Medicine can exert so many positive effects, some connections have already been made. For example, it was found that while listening to Mozart’s Piano Sonatas that there was an increase in growth hormone, which may play a role in increased patient sedation. It was also found that these patients had lower levels of stress hormones interleukin-6 and epinephrine, which accounted for the slower heart-rate and lower blood pressure and contributes to the sedative effects.  

Paving the way for medical humanities

While evidence of the connection between music and medicine has been present for centuries, it is only recently that physicians have started recognizing the importance of incorporating them into how they treat patients. In fact, in 2015, the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) began testing humanities such as psychology and sociology and medical schools have begun integrating more medical humanities classes into their curriculums. This allows our physicians to be more informed about topics such as music medicine and have a more well-rounded education.

Music Medicine has shown to be effective at improving care and quality of life for many patients, but the reality is that everyone responds to it differently. The Medical Station hopes that you’ve expanded your knowledge about Music Medicine and the many positive impacts it can have on your health.

This article was written by Hailey Adler, one of our Summer Administrative Interns. Hailey received a BSc. from the University of Guelph and is attending Queen’s University for a Masters of Anatomical Sciences. She is passionate about all things medical related as well as nutrition and cancer research.

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