Healing Power of Music

Dr Vijay H Viashnav
Email: [email protected]

Deepa graduated in Arts, with child psychology as her specialization. With a gifted voice, she went on to another graduation, in vocal classical music (Sangeet Visharada) from Bal Gandharva Mahavidyalaya (University). She is an alumni of Nada Brahma Sharda Sangeet Vidyalaya, Mumbai founded by late Pandita Indirabai Kelkar, a disciple of late Pandit B. V Paluskar. Deepa had the privilege of lndirabai herself choosing her as her prime disciple. Her advice, as a Guru, was to make music sound sweet to the listeners’ ears and make the common man happy rather than harp on intricacies of classical music. She is currently pursuing research on music therapy.

Evidence shows that listening to appropriate music lowers BP, stabilizes heart rate, relieves depression, reduces pre-treatment anxiety, enhances concentration and creativity, lessens the need for sedatives and painkillers (during and after surgery), reduces nausea after chemotherapy, manages pain and also improves stability of people with Parkinson’s disease.

Hearing soothing music while under anesthesia eases patients’ recovery after surgery — results of a Swedish study suggest. According to findings published in a recent issue of a journal, ACTA, Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica, women undergoing hysterectomies, under general anesthesia, who listened to relaxing music and sounds of ocean waves, experienced less pain and were less fatigued, when discharged from the hospital. They were able to sit up sooner after their operation than patients, who did not listen to such music.

Even though patients are unconscious, when under general anesthesia, brain may remain aware of what happens during surgery, research suggests. Because of this intra-operative awareness, patients may overhear the remarks of doctors and nurses, which could lead to anxiety and dissatisfaction after surgery. To protect patients from misinterpreted comments, music (in combination with therapeutic suggestions) could be provided to all patients, undergoing surgery under general anesthesia. It is an inexpensive and safe intervention that can improve post-operative outcome, such as pain and fatigue.

While medications can help reduce post-operative discomforts, they also have side effects, including nausea.

A study was conducted by researchers at Case Western Reserve University at Cleveland. It involved 500 patients, who underwent abdominal surgery, during a 29-month period in one of the five Cleveland hospitals. The participants in the study ranged from 18—70 year old and were randomly assigned, to receive music, relaxation or a combination of both therapies. This was the experimental group, whose parameters were compared with a control group of patients, who received only standard surgical care. After surgery, all participants received intravenous morphine or Demerol, which was controlled by the patients pressing a button. The experimental group reported less pain, both when walking and resting, on the first and the second days after surgery and reported faster recovery than those in the control group.

Premature babies
Music is used to treat premature children. Today, some doctors are even integrating the calming effects of certain compositions in the treatment of premature children.

Dr. Schwartz, an intensive care doctor at Piedmont Hospital, Atlanta Georgia, has specialized in antenatal and post-natal care. Inside the womb, the noise level is around 80 — 95 decibels — a sound almost as loud as in a disco on a Saturday night. This is caused by the blood flow in the placenta as well as the mother’s breathing and heartbeats. At birth, the sudden loss of this noise is stressful for the child, which is why Dr. Schwartz developed a kind of womb music.

Using highly sensitive microphones, he recorded the noises in his wife’s womb, while she was pregnant, and mixed them in a studio with gentle music and women’s voices. The highly encouraging effect of this composition, on his own child, was that the baby went to sleep straight away, for a longer period of time. This prompted Dr. Schwartz to test his transition music on several premature babies. He explained that the neonates, who had been exposed to the transition music, spent an average of three days less in intensive care than otherwise.

Cancer Treatment
Listening to music during chemotherapy can reduce fear and nervous tension in patients. In a study, 70 test patients were asked to choose their favorite music from a selection of 350 CDs, spanning a whole spectrum of musical tastes. They were questioned, both before and after their musical chemotherapy.

Most of the patients chose classical music. Mozart was the most popular composer, followed by classical CDs, with a selection of relaxing compositions, said American doctor Susan Weber.

Music has the power to influence body and soul. The sound of music can alter the heart and respiration rate as well as brain and general well being.

Blood Pressure
A medical device for treating high BP that uses musical tones to guide a patient’s breathing has produced positive results. This device was clinically proven to reduce high BP, without side effects. An Israel firm makes the product. It works by first automatically analyzing the user’s breathing pattern, It then composes musical tones that guide the user to effortlessly slow breathing from the normal 14— 18 breaths per minute to the therapeutic zone of less than 10 breaths per minute, while prolonging exhalation and lowering BP. The product is available by prescription, as a supplementary treatment for high BP. A submission has been made to the US FDA, for over the counter use.

In another trial, Italian researchers found that its users had significant BP reductions over a control group, in addition to those already achieved with medications. The effect of these treatments took three to four weeks and those patients displayed good adherence to the treatment.

In second trial, a US team tested the efficacy and ease of its over the counter conditions. The study showed that patients were able to use the device properly, without prior training and established, for the first time, a clear close response relationship between the amount of slow breathing exercises using the device and the resulting decrease in BP. Results showed that only 30 minutes per week of effective breathing was enough to significantly lower BP.

Both studies were presented at one of the meetings of the American Society of Hypertension in New York.

Music therapy can thus help the medical fraternity in treating patients better. Some experiments have been successfully conducted abroad. In India, however, not many experiments appear to have been conducted and/or recorded. It needs to be pursued in India.

Patient monitors can be connected and observations recorded under varying musical inputs, including ragas. It is desirable that the monitors have inherent facilities for observing trends and making hard copy recordings.

It is not necessary, however, to stick to only pure classical ragas. Film music, which is very popular in India, also gives wide choices of known tunes, based on appropriate ragas, for most ailments. In addition, bhajans, light music, ghazals etc. may also be judiciously chosen to create the right mood and effect. These generally go down better with the common man as a patient.

A hospital in South Mumbai and a team in Nagpur have separately done some laudable pioneering work in trying out music therapy. Alarmed by several cases of heart failure while on duty, even Mumbai Police has resorted to it, to reduce stress. Music therapy can be applied even to lessen the effect of labor pains and offer simple remedies for headaches, common cold and such other day-to­day problems. Hospitals, nursing homes and clinics in India may, therefore, benefit by exploring the potential of music therapy.

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