‘Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast’ (Shakespeare)

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Music eases pain and stress
By Jerry Brownstein
For those who struggle with chronic pain, reaching for their music playlist may be just as effective as reaching for a bottle of pain pills... and much less invasive. Music has been used since ancient times as a form of healing; even the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras wrote that he used stringed instruments to practice “musical medicine”. Modern science is now finding proof of the power of music for relaxation, stress relief and pain reduction. Researchers pooled the data from 73 randomized clinical trials focusing on the role of music among surgery patients and the results strongly point to the power of music to heal.

The study found that listening to music helped patients drop an average of two points on a 10 point pain scale – a level of relief comparable to that achieved by a dose of pain relieving drugs. In addition to reductions in pain, the patients felt less anxiety and more satisfaction. These benefits were found whether the music was played before, during, or after surgery – and even music played while patients were under general anaesthetic was effective. Given that music is non-invasive, safe, and inexpensive – and most people find it enjoyable – the researchers suggested that hospitals should routinely offer it to their patients as an alternative ‘medicine’.


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