Music as Medicine

Dr. TK Munshi
Music is the soundtrack of our lives, whether we are aware of it or not. It exists within, uniting and guiding us, and has helped heal body and spirit since the dawn of humanity. NASA scientists recently discovered that the universe itself has a song.
Pioneering  Practitioners :    From the soothing tones of a harp to the jarring screeches of a construction site, the stress-reducing or stress-producing properties of sound are familiar to us all. “Stress is an underlying cause of the vast majority of all illnesses, and sound and music are effective in relieving stress and bringing stillness,” says Jonathan Goldman, renowned director of the Sound Healers Association in Colorado. Through his book, ‘The 7 secrets of Sound Healing, Goldman is convinced of the profound effect sound has on the human organism’. ‘The simple chanting of the sound ‘om’ or ‘aum’, in addition to instilling calmness and relaxation, causes the release of melatonin and nitric oxide. It relaxes blood vessels, releases soothing endorphins, reduces the heart rate and slows breathing,’ he explains. ” Sound can change our immune function, wrote Dr. Mitchell Gaynor, former director of medical oncology at Cornell Medical College, New York. ” After  chanting or listening to certain forms of music, your interleukin-1 level, an index of your immune system, goes up between 12 and 15 percent. Even the heart rate and blood pressure are lowered. There is no part of your body not affected.”
Practical applications :    Singing with a tune or not, is a powerful way to combat stress, according to many studies. A recent joint study by German and British researchers confirms that simply listening to soothing music results in significantly lower levels of stress hormone, cortisol. A collective  study by several Swedish universities showed that group singing caused participants’ heart rates to synchronize, producing relaxation similar to group meditation.
Cancer :    Dr. Gaynor used  music to treat even advanced  cancer patients for decades, considering it a ‘ disease of disharmony’. He advocated re-harmonizing the body with sound vibrations that affect virtually every cell enhancing immune function and potentially preventing cancer from spreading. Several studies confirm that listening to any kind of soothing music relieves anxiety in cancer patients; a large study from Drexel University confirms that it also relieves pain, lowers blood pressure, improves breathing and minimizes nausea associated with chemotherapy.
Depression :     Drumming can better counter depression than the prescription drug Prozac, according to a recent study by Royal College of Music in UK. The drumming group participants experienced reduced symptoms.
Smartphone addiction :     Korean research found that music therapy is helpful in overcoming this condition.
Muscle tension dysphonia :   Even tuneless humming sounds like ‘um-hum’ can have a measurable therapeutic effect on individuals that have lost their voices due to overuse.
Pain :     Just listening to harp music for 20 minutes decreased anxiety, lowered blood pressure andssss relieved pain in a group of patients with short-term pain participating in a University of Central Florida study in Orlando.
Alzheimer’s Disease :     Researchers at Florida’s Miami School of Medicine found that a group of patients that participated in music therapy for four weeks, experienced increased levels of the calming brain chemical melatonin.
How it works :     According to Dr. Madan Kataria of Mumbai, ‘ humming or singing causes longer exhalations than normal, helping to naturally eliminate toxins and acidity’. According to an early study done by Dr.Kataria in Denmark the people that hummed for just 10 minutes were able to reduce their systolic blood pressure by 10 to 15 points, their diastolic by five points and their pulse rate by 10 beats per minute. Kataria found that people with breathing problems like asthma and emphysema experienced positive effects because it strengthened belly muscles used in breathing. Kataria is also a fan of ‘kirtan’ – Hindu devotional call-and-response chants often accompanied by ecstatic  dancing. Neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander , recorded his near-death experience in his ‘Proof of Heaven’ as  cosmic music that made him to use specific sound frequencies on the brain. In his medical practice in Virginia, he often employs music from a patient’s past to help him emerge from a brain injury or coma. He believes that it is magical what the right type of music can do to the brain stem to free up our consciousness.
Group  singing :    has become increasingly popular, especially following the hit TV show ‘Glee’. The recent data from Montreal’s McGill University shows that types of music tend to have specific effects; for example, blues slows heart rate and calms an anxious person, rock and punk can boost energy, and reggae can help control anger. On ‘spiritual music’, Alexander opines :  ‘ the sound of music is absolutely crucial in launching us into transcendental awareness. For the true, deep seeker, sound and vibration and the memory of music can serve as a powerful engine to help direct us in the spiritual realms.’ Researcher Beckman believes that  ‘ the combination of yoga, meditation and sound therapy helps to release energetic blocks, reinstating the natural sense of balance and harmony to the body.’