Music and healing

Diane Rehm Show tweetI’m always interested in the stories and testimonials I hear from people who use musical instruments — including my Native American-style flute and kanteles — in healing.

Some of those who use music for healing are certified music therapists who work in hospitals, hospice facilities and other care facilities to help patients.

So I was very interested in the recent Diane Rhem Show on “How Music Can Help Patients Recover from Surgery and Stokes.” By clicking the link, you can listen to the audio of the program or read the transcript.

Diane’s guests included:

Dr. Marvin McMillen, a surgeon at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center in New York,  talked about how music — especially music the patient selects — can decrease a patient’s need for pain medication and can help a patient survive a medical trauma. An “empathetic musician” also can help bring together the patient and loved ones for one last time in end-of-life situations.

Why You Love Music coverDr. Aniruddh Patel, a professor in Psychology at Tufts University, focuses on music cognition: the mental processes involved in making, perceiving, and responding to music. “Music is not a replacement, obviously, for other treatments,” he said. “It’s a way of enhancing aspects of the healing process.”

John Powell, the author of “Why You Love Music,” talked about our bodies having an “internal pharmacy where they dispense various chemicals to us in various states.” For example, listening to classical music can help you calm down before trying to go to sleep.

Andrew Schulman, a medical musician in the music therapy department of the Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, attributes his survival following major surgery to his wife having him listen to the music on his iPod while he was in an induced coma. He now plays for patients.

Connie Tomaino, a board-certified music therapist with the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, talked about how her work, beginning in the 1980s, with people affected by Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke rehabilitation.

The conversation about our life-long association with music, brain research about music, and the stories the guests told about the power of music in medical situations was intriguing and inspiring.