If you need any more proof of music’s power over people, simply watch what happens when you play a familiar song: Some will sing or hum to it, some will tap their foot and sway to the beat, others will smile at a memory associated with the tune, while the same song might leave others feeling wistful.
Such a range of reactions confirms what experts have uncovered through years of research and trials: Music has the ability to elevate the mood, reduce stress by lowering the blood pressure and heart rate, stimulate memory, and encourage movement.
Indeed, there is even actual evidence from studies conducted by neurological researchers of music triggering the release of certain neurochemicals. “Among them are dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure; serotonin, a hormone related to immunity; oxytocin, the chemical that regulates emotional responses and pro-social behaviors; and opioids, the body’s natural pain relievers,” says D. Darwin A. Dasig, MD from the Neuroscience Department of top hospital in the Philippines, Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed).
If music can do all that, can it hasten healing too? “Yes, based on the encouraging results of several trials involving music and patients who have undergone surgery,” the expert asserts. “In 73 international studies involving patients who listened to music after surgery, researchers discovered that those who listened to music before, during, or after their procedure had less pain, took less medication, and were less anxious after their operation. These positive results lasted more than four hours following surgery.”
Doctors are still trying to figure out music’s impact in post-operative care. Could one’s playlist really lessen the need for pain medication—or could it simply be a pleasant form of distraction? “Whatever it is, there is no denying that music is an affordable, accessible, and relatively safe form of intervention,” Dr. Dasig points out.
Classical music may be the recommended genre in music therapy, as there are enough studies to show that it lowers blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. But Taylor Swift, BTS, Beyonce, The Beatles, Eraserheads, and Ben&Ben can also achieve the same. There is something to be said about listening to music that holds special meaning to you, or quite simply makes you happy.
“Remember the 73 international studies of patients who listen to music post-op? Those who experienced a slightly greater, but nonsignificant, reduction in pain, and needed the least pain medication, were the ones who got to pick their own music,” the neuro specialist states. “So, it really does not matter if you like oldies but goodies, pop, jazz, or rock. The important thing is that it is music you enjoy.”
Dr. Dasig underlines that patients should not rely on music alone to keep pain at bay. “Though music has been known to decrease the need for pain medicine, there is nothing wrong about asking for it, especially when the pain proves unbearable,” he assures.
“If music does not lessen the amount of painkillers you need, it can, at the very least, uplift your spirits and make you sing and smile. These are the reactions we want, as they contribute to your gradual recovery.”