The Healing Power of Music

April 10, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

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Music has the amazing ability to turn emotions on and off, to transport us to another place and yes, to heal.

Music transcends race, sex, religion and boundaries of time and space.

What’s playing on your iPod, your computer, or in the background of your mind?

Right now I’m listening to Enya’s Paint the Sky with Stars, because to me the music translates to calming empowerment.

How does music factor into complementary cancer therapy?


From the American Music Therapy Association, the definition of music therapy:

Music Therapy is an established health care profession that uses music to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of individuals of all ages. Music therapy interventions can be designed to:

  • promote wellness
  • manage stress
  • alleviate pain
  • express feelings
  • enhance memory
  • improve communication
  • promote physical rehabilitation

Combining music and science to promote healing and wellness, is the philosophy of The Institute of Music and Neurological Function.

The Institute utilizes psychotherapy trained music therapists to facilitate with the goal of facilitating self-expression and providing emotional support. Music becomes a method of communication, a tool of expression and a coping mechanism.

Goals of a this type of emotional support therapy include reduced pain, relaxation, stimulated communication and learned coping skills.

The Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy located on the campus of NYU and affiliated with a graduate program in music therapy, offers programs for children, adolescents and adults to cope with life stressors and to provide therapeutic self expression.

Stanford University’s Center for Music Research and Acoustics released some preliminary symposium results stating that “music with a strong beat stimulates the brain and ultimately causes brainwaves to resonate in time with the rhythm, research has shown. Slow beats encourage the slow brainwaves that are associated with hypnotic or meditative states. Faster beats may encourage more alert and concentrated thinking.”

Neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, author of Awakenings shares “As a result of a brain tumor, my patient Greg has not been able to retain any new memories since the 1970s. But if we talk about or play his favorite Grateful Dead songs, his amnesia is bypassed. He becomes vividly animated and can reminisce about their early concerts.” In 2006 Dr. Sacks received the Music Has Power Award given to individuals whose accomplishments have brought new understanding to the use of the power of music to heal and awaken.

Music for pain? A SciencCentral News video shares that music can boost the effectiveness of pain medications, reducing pain up to 31%.

Don Campbell’s The Mozart Effect Resource Center is all about the “transformational powers of music, health, education and well being.”

Campbell’s book, The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind and Unlock the Creative Spirit.

Publisher description: Stimulating, authoritative, and often lyrical, The Mozart Effect has a simple but life-changing message: music is medicine for the body, the mind, and the soul. Campbell shows how modern science has begun to confirm this ancient wisdom, finding evidence that listening to certain types of music can improve the quality of life in almost every respect. Here are dramatic accounts of how music is used to deal with everything from anxiety to cancer, high blood pressure, chronic pain, dyslexia, and even mental illness.

I recently asked a friend what she was listening to on her iPod as we waited for the light rail to arrive. She told me and then added, “I think of it as background music for my life.”

I like that.

Why not deliberately stage the background music for your life–for your cancer journey?

Download music on your MP3 for the upcoming appointments on your calendar. Here are my choices. Insert yours!

Oncologist appointment: Jim Brickman, GraceGrace

Lab work:Brooks & Dunn, Steers and Stripes Steers and Stripes

Chemotherapy outpatient: Michael Buble, It’s TimeIt's Time

More Resources:

The New York Times, August 24, 2006. Now in the Recovery Room: Music for Hearts to Heal by.

University of California, Department of Psychology, Professor Diana Deutsch “who conducts research on perception and memory for sounds, particularly music.”

The Times Online, May 22, 2007. Body and Mind: How the Power of Music Lifts and Heals.

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4 Responses to “The Healing Power of Music”
  1. Thanks!! And thanks for stopping by.

  2. btospider says:

    I like this Page

  3. Julie!! Thanks for stopping by. Have you ever seen the movie, Awakenings. Amazing. Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro. And Oliver Sack also has a book of case studies called The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat.
    The mind is an amazing thing. So is music.

    What are you listening to?

  4. Excellent article!!! Greg’s situation with remembering Grateful Dead concerts through music therapy gave me cold chills!! So good to know this type of therapy is available. Thank you!


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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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