“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
– Bob Marley
Ancient Greeks were of the belief that music had the power to heal the body as well as the soul. The power of meditation was also discovered millennia ago when the early man stared into the flames of fire and entered into a peaceful state of mind. Meditative or relaxation music is a combination of two such powers as mighty enough to deliver individuals from their mental as well as physical problems. Although discoveries were made ages ago, it was only in the 1940s that medical experts and scientists started to research the influence of music on the human body and its assistance to overcome various ailments.
Music has been used as a therapy tool by doctors for several years. Relaxation music allegedly distracts patients from their pain and helps them calm down in troubled times. However, scientific evidence from the Research Center at the Utah University has confirmed that music can help divert patients’ minds to lessen their pain. A musician and university professor, David H. Bradshaw, noted an affirmative connection between relieving pain from headaches and practicing music through personal experiences.
Study Proving the Influence of Music on Pain
Intrigued by his curiosity, he joined forces with four other university doctors – from the University of Utah’s anesthesiology department and used more than 150 healthy volunteers to confirm his theory. The subjects were divided into two groups and each group received shocks or painful stimulations of varying intensities from electrodes on the tip of their fingers. One group went through the mild pain in an environment where music was being played in the background while the second group was delegated with several musical assignments of differing difficulties. The tasks involved recognizing the changing directions of a melody or the identification of deviant tones. The harmonies used for the research were the compositions of Miguel Chuaqui – the head of the university’s School of Music’s composition program.
When the subjects received shocks, researchers found that there were quantifiable electrical potentials within the subjects’ skin conductance, pupil dilation, and nervous systems. Using this data, the researchers measured their subjects’ peripheral and central arousal, or the level of pain they experienced. Based on the study, Bradshaw’s team uncovered that the alterations in stimulus arousal or net engagement related to the performance of musical tasks decreased when the difficulty of tasks increased. The research team proved, through the test, that the subjects’ overall pain decreased when they focused on the music and the task at hand.
The Magic of Relaxation Music
The sensory channels in our bodies are activated by music. They provoke emotional responses and captivate mental attention to fight against the pain channels. The synergy of music and pain therefore reduces our bodies’ response and increases tolerance. However, the magnitude of pain reduction differs among individuals owing to personality traits such as their ability to focus on a particular activity and their anxiety levels.
Relaxation Music Therapy to Help People with AIDS and Cancer Patients
Music’s influence on pain has extended its use into several fields in terms of health and well-being. Music therapy is becoming increasingly popular and emerging as a whole new field in itself. The AMTA (American Music Therapy Association) reports that music is useful in addressing social, physical, emotional, and cognitive needs. Treatment does not only involve listening to music, but also singing, creating, and moving to music. Alleviation of pain, management of stress, improvement of communication, and enhancement of memory can be successfully completed by using music therapy.
Many recent studies have been conducted in different parts of the world to test the influence of music on people with personal issues and illnesses. The Drexel University’s researchers, for instance, discovered that music can improve the BP levels in cancer patients and also elevate the moods of people suffering from AIDS or Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg revealed that relaxation music not only helped subjects relax when listening to it, but also proved that they experienced a flurry of positive emotions at a higher frequency and with higher intensity. In addition, the same subjects showed signs of lower stress and their cortisol levels (stress hormone in humans) also reduced significantly.
The Findings and Revelations of the American Cancer Society
The ACS (American Cancer Society) denoted that relaxation music can help in reducing heart rate, breathing rates, and blood pressure. It can also lower the symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, and depression to a great extent. Patients who receive chemotherapy and anti-nausea drugs in high doses can ease vomiting and nausea by using music therapy. Relaxation music also helps relieve the short-term pain experienced by cancer patients.
The ACS indicated that hospice patients such as those suffering from cancer or AIDS improved their quality of life through the power of relaxation music. Music therapy has helped in improving their relaxation and comfort levels while also aiding in pain control. In some patients, relaxation music has dilated veins and relaxed muscles, which has significantly helped decrease the discomfort experienced during invasive procedures.
Impact of Meditative Music on People Suffering with Alzheimer’s disease
People suffering from Alzheimer’s disease can make the most of relaxation music to achieve assistance in daily life. Even during the latter stages of Alzheimer’s disease, a patient’s ability to engross in musical activities and interact with rhythmic cues remains intact. The cognitive functioning necessary for the processing of these cues is impaired during the late stages, so unfamiliar relaxation music can help in relaxing patients by inducing sleep and managing stress. Sedative or meditative music with no syncopation or percussion and slower tempos has the potential to help people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease change the routines which cause agitation and go to bed with relative ease.
Relaxation music has the ability to put listeners into a calm state of mind. Whether it involves stimulating a patient affected by dementia, retrieving memories, relieving pain, or soothing an individual who has had a long day, week, a month, or a year, relaxation music possesses the kind of healing power that arguably goes beyond scientific reasoning.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the minds, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato