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Turn Up the Healing Power of Music

Whether it’s singing along to a country tune or indulging in a little heavy metal head banging, we all have our favorite jams. But can your playlist really be good for you?

Science is increasingly saying, “yeah, yeah yeah.” 

Recent studies have shown a positive impact of music on people with brain injuries, dementia, Parkinson’s, asthma, pain, autism and anxiety. 

While today’s researchers are increasingly studying music’s powerful effects on humans, interest goes back centuries.

In 400 BC, Greek physician Hippocrates played music for mental health patients and is said to have believed that music was deeply intertwined with medicine. 

Think of music as a prescription you can write for your own well-being. Read on for the many ways music can be good for you. 

Pump up your energy.

Music can lift your energy levels. Try it when you’re exercising, doing household tasks or getting ready for the day. Basketball phenom Michael Jordan reportedly made Anita Baker’s “Giving You the Best I Got” his pre-game ritual. 

Ease your pain.

Research is ongoing regarding the ability of music to relieve pain from specific health conditions. For example, studies found benefits for pain associated with everything from childbirth to the treatment of nose fractures and sickle cell disease. Reggae artist Bob Marley made this connection: “One good thing about music. When it hits you, you feel no pain.” 

Soothe your anxiety.

Listening to music before surgery was found to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety. It’s also been found to reduce levels of cortisol, your stress hormone. One way it helps, according to pop star Elton John, is by providing a positive distraction. “Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours,” he said. 

Boost your immune system.

Music has been found to increase the antibodies that are essential for immunity (immunoglobulin A) and cells that attack invading germs and bacteria called natural killer cells. How significant the benefit is remains to be understood. Rock icon David Bowie believed in its higher purpose. “I wanted to prove the sustaining power of music,” he said.

Lower your blood pressure.

Music has been shown to affect the cardiovascular system in many positive ways. Musical vibrations have been found to trigger relaxation in the body via the vagal nerve, which can lower your blood pressure. The effect can feel like practical magic. “Music is like a huge release of tension,” said folk artist James Taylor. 

Get your zzzzs.

Soothing sounds can help you release tension and settle your mind into a sleepier state. The most relaxing song, as identified by a group of Mindlab International neuroscientists, is “Weightless” by English ambient music group Marconi Union. The group collaborated with sound therapists to achieve a song structure that reduces blood pressure and anxiety while creating a feeling of euphoria and comfort. 

There’s much yet to be understood about music’s positive impact on overall health. If you want to gain even more benefits, take up an instrument. Learning how to play music has been shown to improve memory, coordination, concentration, discipline – and more. Reach out to your primary care provider if you have more questions. 

Rupinder Flora, MD
Rupinder Flora, MD

Rupinder Flora, MD is a primary care provider with CHI St. Alexius Health.

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