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New research demonstrates the health benefits of music therapy

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Recent research has suggested that music may help to ease pain and provide therapeutic benefits for babies undergoing common medical procedures. It is thought that music helps calm them and stabilise some of their vital functions, but achieving reliable research results has proved difficult in the past.

However, scientists from the University of Alberta in Canada have reviewed previous studies published between 1989 and 2006, and found evidence suggesting that music has a beneficial effect during certain procedures, such as blood sampling and circumcision.

One study looked at the effects of lullabies and nursery rhymes during circumcision. The results showed that music did help lower pain and prevent the babies’ heart rates from increasing. Other studies showed similar effects upon the heel prick procedure, while others indicated that music improved feeding rates in premature babies.

It has been suggested that one of the body’s responses to music is the release of endorphins from the pituitary gland, through the autonomic nervous system, as a result of stimulation of the emotional centres in the brain.

The use of music as a therapeutic tool is by no means a recent development. Reports appeared in the 1970s on the use of music in palliative care units in Canada, for patients with advanced malignant disease, suggesting that, in the hands of a trained music therapist, music could be a useful tool for improving the quality of life of these patients.

More recent research has shown that music can stimulate brainwaves to resonate in time with a strong musical beat. Faster beats cause sharper concentration and more alert thinking, whereas slower tempi promote a calmer, more meditative state.

These alterations in brainwaves also affect other bodily functions, particularly those governed by the autonomic nervous system, such as breathing and heart rate, which can both be slowed by musical rhythm, activating the relaxation response, which can help counteract the damaging effects of chronic stress.

These effects can also help to promote a more positive state of mind, to help treat anxiety and depression, as well increasing creativity and mental acuity. More anecdotal evidence suggests that music can improve concentration and therefore productivity at work.

So far, to my staff’s chagrin, I have resisted the clamour to have music played in the dispensary. It seems that, if they read this article, I may now have to rethink this policy.

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From: Beyond pharmacy blog

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