Health Care Lifestyle

Music – The Great Healer

Music and Immunity

Whole-person integrative medicine focused on healing you in mind, body and spirit. It's more than fixing what’s wrong. It’s about celebrating what’s right and making sure you’re on the path to a healthier, stronger you.

Do you ever wonder why all humankind seems to have appreciation for music? Love for music is something we all share, no matter where we are from or our political background.

It turns out that music does not only uplift our spirit, but it has many other healing qualities for our physical bodies as well.

Listening to calming music lowers blood pressure and slows down heart rate: signs of switching from a stress driven (sympathetic) mode of our nervous system to a healing and repair mode promoting parasympathetic nervous response. When in the stress mode, in which so many of us spend way too much time in our modern, fast paced way of life, our body is tense. We are prepared to run from danger or fight and our blood pressure and heart rate go up. We focus our attention on immediate survival. In the parasympathetic mode, however, we dedicate our energy to digestion, repair and healing. Indeed, the right music can get us into our own inner healing mode.

Calming music helps our muscles relax and can alleviate pain. Multiple studies show that listening to self-selected music or calming music after orthopedic surgery lessens pain as well as anxiety, resulting in less demand for medications and better patient satisfaction.

The power of music is amazing. Music can change emotions from one side of the spectrum to another within moments, and ease pain and anxiety thanks to the release of endorphins – the feel-good molecules of bliss in our brain, and everywhere else in our body. In fact, music therapy has been successfully used as an adjunct in the treatment of depression and anxiety, including in patients with Alzheimer’s dementia.

Also, the endorphins, or endocannabinoids, have a profound effect on our immune system. One of the protective mechanisms we have against germs is a protein called immunoglobulin A. It is secreted by the white blood cells in the mucous lining of our noses and sinuses, our intestines and our mouth - everywhere our body comes in contact with germs. When measuring the levels of salivary immunoglobulin A before and after singing Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, scientists found an astonishing 240 percent rise of this protein within just an hour of singing.

Listening to music may also alleviate allergic reactions. In one study, listening to Mozart reduced the size of allergic skin reaction to a known allergen while another study showed improved breathing in patients with asthma flare up.

Some of these benefits are likely due to music’s ability to lower our stress hormone, cortisol, translating into benefits for our cardiovascular system as well as our brain. Stress inhibits our ability to generate new brain cells in the hippocampus, the center of memory that is affected in Alzheimer’s dementia. However, music does the opposite as it can improve our memory by enhancing neurogenesis, helping us retrieve old memories and helping us create new ones.

In addition, music increases dopamine in the brain, leading not only to pleasure, but also improving movement in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Rhythmical music is used in the rehabilitation of Parkinson’s patients, helping them to walk, but also reduces risk of falls in older hospitalized patients.

To learn more about the wonderful healing effects of music, I would recommend watching documentary movies such as Alive Inside or Tuning the Brain with Music, or reading Oliver Sack’s Musicophilia. Most importantly, enjoy music every day.

About the Author

Tereza Hubkova, MD

Tereza Hubkova, MD

Tereza Hubkova, MD, is a Board-certified integrative medicine physician focused on one goal: Your good health. For more than 20 years, she’s studied many different healing tools — from nutritional medicine to the principles of Chinese medicine and much more. She uses that knowledge and experience to guide her patients along a path to whole health and healing.

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