Being rushed to the hospital for a health emergency such as appendicitis, intestinal obstruction, or inflammation of the gall bladder will cause a great deal of pain and physical and emotional stress. On top of this are the sights and sounds of the hospital environment which can be unnerving for virtually anyone.
To bring calm to patients who find themselves in this distressing situation, researchers wanted to see if a surprising natural treatment would help. The treatment isn’t a nutrient, herb, or salve, but the soothing sounds of music.
Music might be the very last natural treatment you’d expect to find in any doctor’s office, much less the emergency room, but a new study shows that’s just where it belongs.
It has been shown in clinical studies to decrease pain and anxiety, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve mood in ways that are simply shocking to doctors.
Best of all, listening to music couldn’t be easier—or more relaxing— to use on your own, at home.
Music as Healing Therapy
Whether listening or performing, music brings not only great joy and meaning to people’s lives, but also many benefits to health and well-being. We’ve talked about the benefits of listening to and playing music in this newsletter before. However, music has never been put to the test against the pain and anxiety of patients awaiting urgent lifesaving surgery.
A nurse in Denmark, Lisa Antonsen, who works in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Odense University Hospital, wondered if music could help these patients. But before any study could begin, she had to figure out how to use music in a way that would not disturb or annoy other patients or medical staff.
The answer? A very unique musical pillow.
A Registered Medical Device
Since 2003 Danish oboist and composer Niels Eje, in a unique collaboration with medical scientists, has been designing music to simulate the sounds of nature and provide calmness, comfort, and inspiration for patients.
The musical compositions are also combined with nature sounds recorded at multiple locations. The program is called MusiCure.
Although the music can be listened to with earplugs or headphones, the MusiCure Pillow, with built in speakers, was developed specifically for hospitals and care centers, and is registered as a Class 1 Medical Device in the European Union (EU).
The pillow has been tested in patients undergoing colonoscopy, bronchoscopy (for suspected lung cancer), cardiac surgery, and patients with delirium. Between them the results showed the pillow:
- Reduced feelings of anxiety, stress, and pain
- Decreased need for medication
- Lowered levels of cortisol (the stress hormone)
- Increased levels of oxytocin (the “peace/love hormone”)
- Increased a sense of calmness, well-being, motivation, and inspiration
Ms. Antonsen decided to use the music pillow to investigate whether music could reduce pain and induce feelings of relaxation and well-being during the waiting time for acute surgery as well as explore the patients’ experience using the device.
Made for a More Positive Experience
She and her colleagues enrolled 14 men and 16 women aged between 18 and 93 who used the pillow for 30 minutes.
Before and after using the pillow, patients were asked to rate their pain, relaxation and well-being on a scale ranging from 0 to 10. Afterwards, 15 patients were interviewed about the experience.
The findings showed pain decreased more than a point, from an average of 4.8 to 3.7, relaxation improved two points from 4.6 to 7.6 and well-being also increased two points, from 4.3 to 6.6.
Ms. Antonsen explained, saying, “The patients described both physical and mental well-being while listening to the music. They felt relaxed and found themselves thinking about something other than the pain and the worries related to the surgery. Thus, the music session provided a break from the acute hospital environment.”
An example of this is a 65-year-old woman, who told the researchers: “It made me relax and, for a moment, I did not think about being here at the hospital. I just came to think about being outside in nature listening to birdsong.”
The music pillow used in this pilot study continues to be used in Ms. Antonsen’s emergency department and she hopes it will become a permanent feature.
I’m not surprised by these results or that the research was performed in Europe. Our conventional medical system here in the United States is still resistant to many simple natural treatments and therapies despite the fact there’s solid evidence behind them for efficacy and safety.
The good news is, at least in the case of music as treatment, you don’t need a doctor—or even a special pillow—to put its healing power to work for you. You can listen to at least two of the MusiCure tracks for free on their website: https://musicure.dk/en/home or also on YouTube, by searching “MusiCure.”
In addition, you can easily find, play, and download a track of calm, soothing music with sounds of nature on your own device for yourself or any loved one that finds themselves in pain or feeling anxious while in the emergency room, or anywhere else. In fact, next time you’re battling any illness, pain, or anxiety, give it a try and see how you feel. Or course, if you’re in public, just remember to use headphones!