Music lovers have long realized the soothing benefits of music and the richness that coordinated sound waves can add to their lives, but did you know that music can actually heal your body in unique ways? In addition to the already well-documented psychological benefits, music has been found to be able to attenuate pain, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and improve immune response. These discoveries have prompted scientists to ask how the magic power of music can be captured and utilized in a more formal and systematic way to treat a variety of illnesses and ailments and enhance overall quality of life.
Less Pain… a Definite Gain
While the experience of pain is subjective, the neural underpinnings of pain are standard for everyone. The pain stimulus travels via the nerve to the spinal cord, and then on to the brain, which sends out an 'ouch' message. A little pain helps keep you safe, but chronic pain can be debilitating and harmful to overall health. Music is being utilized to decrease the perception of pain in a variety of illnesses and medical procedures with great success. Music stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain by increasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with food, sex, and other pleasurable activities. Scientists theorize that the dopamine release interferes with and minimizes the sensation of pain, and research is bearing that theory out.
Lullaby and Goodnight
Lullabies have been used to send children off to sleep for centuries, but it is only recently that scientists are beginning to understand why they work so well. Recent studies conducted at Beth Israel Medical Center's Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine showed that premature infants experienced a decrease in heart rate and an increase in sucking behavior when exposed to various types of live music. Singing a lullaby proved to be most effective, and not only had these advantageous benefits on the infants, the parents experienced less stress as well.
One possible explanation is that the electrochemical pathway that music follows in the brain stimulates the hypothalamus which regulates the heart rate and breathing. Rhythmic, joyful music can aid infants (and adults too) in relaxing enough to fall asleep.
Immune to Music?
In a 2007 study, researchers found that listening to music increased production of the antibody immunoglobulin A. This antibody acts as a defender against invading viruses and other germs which boosts the endocrine system's effectiveness in fighting illness. Additionally, listening to music decreases the production of cortisol, the stress hormone which enhances overall health.
On the Horizon
Researchers are now developing studies that examine the physiological data collected with personal biometric devices in light of the types of music that the participant listens to as they move throughout their day. Evaluating this biometric data may be able to help physicians and researchers identify the types of music that most effectively aid specific conditions. Such cutting edge research holds a lot of promise for new avenues of noninvasive treatments that are only a song on the radio away.
If you are in need of therapy, make sure to ask a clinic like Newsome & Associates, Ltd. if music would be beneficial in your treatment.