Stress Reduction and Healing With Music
Thursday, January 15, 2015 04:28 PM

Current literature reports how music facilitates stress reduction in patients.  The knowledge that chiropractic is a patient-centered (not disease-centered) healing arts profession brings to light the need to offer patients any natural and available means of healing. Using music in combination with the adjustment may be a method for improving the effectiveness of the treatment as well as patient satisfaction. With the innovation of websites like Pandora, and the evidence-based literature that music can facilitate many positive physiological aspects of being, there should be mindful efforts made by not only DCs but all healthcare providers to furnish treatment rooms with music.

Because music is so diverse, it is important to consider specific forms to evaluate the impact on patient perception. For instance, the classical genre can be very relaxing. In 1998, research from the Department of Management Science, Science University of Tokyo looked at the influence of music on the body by comparing the difference of influence on heart rate variability and comfort when subjects listen to music and are exposed to noise. Researchers used rock, classical music and noise and concluded that hearing classical music results in a suppression of the sympathetic nerves. Not so with rock music and noise. From a psychological evaluation, classical music tends to cause comfort, while rock music and noise tend to cause discomfort. 

A 2006 systematic review of the literature found that when patients are able to select their own music, there is no decline in pain intensity. However, significant pain relief was noted in four studies that reported the proportion of subjects with at least 50 percent pain relief; subjects exposed to music had a 70 percent higher likelihood of having pain relief than unexposed subjects. Moreover, researchers found post-surgical patients who were exposed to music required between 15 percent and 18 percent less opioids than patients who were not exposed.

It is clear that music makes an impact in the healing process. In addition to reducing heart rate (or increasing the heart rate depending on the genre), music may be applied to assist with some common side effects that cancer patients experience with chemotherapy. Researchers investigated the effects of music and imagery versus imagery-only interventions on inducing relaxation and reducing nausea and emesis in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment. They found a significant decrease in the frequency of nausea and emesis over time.  Because vomiting is more of a parasympathetic function than sympathetic, it is fair to say that music may offer positive effects in either activating or blocking the sympathetic or parasympathetic pathway depending on the desired applications and outcomes.

In 2000 the Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics stated that it is the collective experience of the chiropractic profession that aberrant stimulation at a particular level of the spine may elicit a segmentally organized response, which may manifest itself in dysfunction within organs receiving autonomic innervation at that level.  Current neuroscience research supports a neurophysiologic rationale for the concept that aberrant stimulation of spinal or paraspinal structures may lead to segmentally organized reflex responses of the autonomic nervous system, which in turn may alter visceral function.

In exploring the application of music alongside chiropractic care, other researchers note there is a philosophical basis for the integration of treatment using music therapy and chiropractic. Perception is intimately linked to the nervous system. A relationship between spinal integrity and consciousness does exist. They say that rhythms of healing and suffering are a key concept in combining music therapy with chiropractic manipulation. They state that music can be used as a significant tool in chiropractic work to aid healing.