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The healing power of music


The healing power of music

The Covid-19 pandemic is a major threat to the health of Australians, especially older folks. KENDALL MORTON reports that there are many good reasons to tune into music therapy at this time.

The current situation is definitely causing stress, uncertainty and cabin fever.  Added to that, we know that stress lowers your immunity.

Music can lower your heart rate, your blood pressure and your level of the stress hormone cortisol. Here’s how music helped patients with surgery, another stressful event.

In a study with patients undergoing cataract surgery in the US, half of the group were given their preferred music to listen to through headphones before, during and after their surgery. Others had no music. Before the surgery, both groups had similar blood pressure and both had increased heart rates just prior to the surgery. During surgery, the group with music had lower blood pressure and this was maintained in the recovery room. Those without music had higher blood pressure throughout the time.

Medical research shows more ways that music can assist you and your loved ones in these challenging months.

Pain relief: In a study reported by the Harvard Medical School, 80 patients had urinary tract surgery with a spinal anaesthetic. All patients could top up this pain relief with a hand held device.

Those who were listening to music during surgery used less top-up medication. The music was calming and was also a buffer to the noise in the busy operating room.  Reach for the CD player to aid your pain relief at home.

Better brain health: According to the Mayo Clinic, people with dementia can benefit from singing songs or listening to music. It can improve their mood and reduce agitation. The part of the brain responsible for storing musical memories is often less affected by dementia.

Singing and moving in time with music will help an individual maintain language and mobility. Music with strong rhythms has been shown to increase blood flow to various parts of the brain.

Different music will achieve different things. Use soothing music to help someone stay calm during an activity that is usually stressful for them. Use familiar upbeat songs to tap into music memories.

Improved balance: Moving to music, whether it’s slow stretching, a waltz or seniors’ ballet, leads to better balance. A Swiss study with 134 seniors who were at risk of falling was undertaken in 2010. One group was given a one-hour lesson each week in moving to music and the other group maintained their usual activities. After six months, the dancers showed improved gait and balance. They also had 54 per cent fewer falls. Knowing where your body is in space is essential as you age. Regular exercise to music can reduce your risk of falls. It will build your muscles, help you stay mobile and increase your blood flow. Better balance boosts your confidence too.

An aerobic alternative: If you are not able to do aerobic exercise due to mobility limitations, here’s another option. In a small study, scientists tested the blood flow of subjects across different conditions. They listened to a variety of music or relaxation tapes or watched amusing video.

Uplifting joyful music resulted in a 26 per cent increase in blood flow. This was a similar to the levels achieved with aerobic exercise. It outstripped the comedy videos with 19 per cent and the relaxation tapes with 11 per cent blood flow increases.

Enhanced sleep: The Sleep Foundation says that listening to 45 minutes of music at bedtime can help you fall asleep faster, sleep longer and wake during the night less often. This works because well-chosen music lowers your heart rate and breathing. It can also relax your muscles.

These changes are similar to what your body does when you fall asleep so music primes you for sleeping.

The positive effects on your sleep will build over time, so listening to music at bedtime is a habit worth building and sticking to for the long-term.

 Kendall Morton is director of Home Care Assistance Sunshine Coast to Wide Bay. Call 5491 6888 or email


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