A recent study shows the healing power of music is helping surgical patients reduce pain and recovery time. Cindy Lewellen is a certified music practitioner who plays the harp for patients at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, WV. "There have been studies about pain and how much pain medication people need and that you know a half hour of music can reduce the need for pain meds and there are many fewer side effects from harp music," said Lewellen.
While it's not clear how music benefits the body, research suggests music therapy can bring about positive physical changes in patients. The right music can lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, improve breathing, and relax muscle tension. "Sometimes I'm playing for people who are in pain," said Lewellen. "And I'll play very quiet, slow music, simple music. Sometimes if it's somebody who has had a heart problem, I'll play very rhythmic music. If I'm playing in the ICU and I know somebody has had a heart attack I don't want to mess with that. My music is going to be nice steady heart beat music."
Studies show that music therapy can help relieve pain for cancer patients, and can help improve communication in Alzheimer's patients. "At least when I started it seemed like every other patient I played for went to sleep. And that was the biggest gift I could give them because a hospital is a very noisy place," said Lewellen.
Its use is becoming more wide spread according to Dr. Rolly Sullivan with WVU's School of Medicine. Check with your local hospital or nursing home to see if it's available.