The Therapy of Music: Can Music Bring Healing?

By Ore Taiwo Makinde. Image credit: freepik.

The historical link of music with healing

“The hills are alive with the sound of music…”. Many of us still sing these fond lyrics, particularly children. Each music era brings with it a distinct style; from the Renaissance music era to the Baroque, Classical and Western music eras. From reggae to pop, from country music to highlife, almost anyone can define a tune which they can align with not forgetting to mention our local cultural folk music. 

It is interesting to note that music is not only cherished as a form of entertainment, but it is also gaining clinical relevance in the medical field. This is hardly surprising when you consider ancient history that tells a story of how music from a harp relieved a king of a depressive spirit. 

Recent research on music in medicine

In this present dispensation where there is so much psychological and emotional turmoil, is there a way music can help to relieve stress? 

Research has also delved into the effects of music on the physical health of both children and adults alike. A study on the effect of music therapy on premature babies showed that they sucked better and stayed alert for longer periods when exposed to it. Little wonder that singing and pacing helps to pacify agitated infants.

Listening to music just before surgical procedures was also associated with a reduction in blood pressure compared to those patients who were surrounded with silence. In addition, researchers have been able to associate listening to music with increasing levels of protective antibodies in the body, thus enhancing its immunity.

Engaging with music includes singing, listening to music, playing a musical instrument, choreographing or dancing to music and lyric writing, discussion or meditation; all of which guide the images passing through the brain. The brain responds to what it hears and is therefore stimulated by the strains of the associated vibration, rhythm and lyrics even long after the music ends. Music is so powerful that it resides in our sub-conscious; an event or discussion drawing out in seconds the memory of a song last listened to 30 years earlier. 

Negative effects of music

Lyric content is also critical as sad music has been shown to have a negative effect on mental health. A study conducted among teenagers showed that those who listened heavily to music with sex as their subject matter were more likely to engage in sex earlier than their counterparts. It therefore follows that music riddled with violent content would trigger similar brain images and behavioural traits in those who listen constantly to it.

Benefits of music

There is proven evidence which shows that music can be used as a therapeutic lifestyle intervention, of which some benefits are highlighted below:

Music serves as an outlet to release pent-up emotions from stress.

It calms the mood of those with emotional challenges such as depression, anxiety and grief.

Music serves as a welcome distraction when boredom sets in.

It helps relieve distress before and during painful medical procedures.

Music creates an avenue to communicate messages from one person to the other.

In addition, music enhances social interactions such as in a religious gathering or party.

It is useful in rehabilitation of patients with stroke or other chronic diseases that affect the brain such as Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Music is known to improve quality of life in elderly or terminally ill patients.

It enables patients to engage better with medical professionals and treatment.

Music enhances worship and meditation.

Let us take advantage by engaging our minds with singing, dancing to happy tunes and lyric writing during distressing periods. It will not chase away the dark times but it will help us to muster a positive response to them. Let’s keep our minds alive with the sound of rich and joyful music.

Dr Ore Taiwo Makinde is a Consultant Family Physician and certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician.


  • Folake Sanwoolu July 8, 2020 8:49 am

    A merry heart does good like medicine.

  • Arun July 13, 2020 8:26 am

    Thanks, Ore for the fantastic post. I religiously believe in the healing power of music. Listening to music is one of the greatest stress busters for me. I also sing songs along with my son. One of my close friends, a cancer survivor was able to cope up with the painful medical procedures by listening to soothing healing music.

    • lcifoundation July 13, 2020 6:45 pm

      Wonderful feedback from you, Arun! Thanks so much for sharing with us.

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