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Music As Medicine

Perhaps, I am dating myself, but for those of you who are “Top Gun” fans, you know that music can transport you into a different scene with different emotions and reactions. From the initial pursuits of Maverick’s flirtations in the song, “You Lost That Loving Feeling”, to a steamy scene compliments of “You Take My Breath Away” and, to finally, the sadness visualized as Maverick’s best friend, Goose, dies, each song creates a space for our brains to connect to our own experiences. Music is magic and allows us to transport from one moment into another. Sometimes those moments traveled to can be nostalgic. Songs can induce calmness, triumph, joy or even sadness and defeat.

I woke up to music - the rhythm of my heart.

“What time is it?”

This was the first thing I recall saying after my first hip surgery in October. The response? “7 p.m.”

Frantically and with slurred speech, I mumbled, “What do you mean it’s 7 p.m.?” My surgery was only supposed to be 4 hours. Why is it so late? My mind had an explosion of thoughts. Was there a complication? Did I even have a hip left? The nurse, Rowena, reassured me that the surgery went fine, and that I had been in a lot of pain. Fortunately, I don’t remember those first hours. I remember later waking up at home to a weight on my chest as I realized my husband’s hand was feeling the rhythm of my breathing - music to his ears!

All of the anxiety from the weeks of waiting was done and the healing was just beginning. My Spotify was ordered very strategically. My songs of relaxation were set. These were songs that would let me connect auditorily to my yoga mat where I was able to relax, breathe and repeat. Inhale, exhale. These songs already had the ability to connect the dots for me. Play song 1, mind travels to the stillness of Shavasana. Song 2 and I travel to triumph. Song 3 takes me to my hopeful place and so on and so on.

For me, music has allowed me to calm down when the panic of recovery was overwhelming and chest crushing. Even today, I had a moment. Throat constricted, heart racing. What if? Again, I fight against fear. Music calms and soothes. "Don't go there", it says to me.

The scientific research documents evidence of the amazing impact of music on pain in the postoperative period. Although my experience is anecdotal, there is also support of my observation from the medical community. For example, an article in the Pain Management Nursing journal discusses a meta-analysis of music as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). At the end of the day, the authors recommend that music not be the sole intervention as the “standard of care”, but they do suggest, based on the review of the research, that the music chosen be “calming, soft tones of 60-80 beats per minute for at least 15-30 minutes at least twice daily during the pre- and postoperative periods.”

Find the music that soothes your soul. For my calming needs, sometimes it’s “Bella’s Lullaby”, Trevor Hall’s “You Can’t Rush Your Healing”, Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” or the yogi music of Jai Jagdeesh. Whether you need the fighting attitude from Rocky, a song from Queen or the relaxation from Enya, embrace it. Your playlist should be as unique as you, just like your recipe for Hope!

Poulsen, M. J., & Coto, J. (2018). Nursing Music Protocol and Postoperative Pain. Pain Management Nursing,19(2), 172-176. doi:10.1016/j.pmn.2017.09.003

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