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Photo: Linda Ibbotson
Recent research has found that music-based therapy may be a suitable alternative to anti-anxiety benzodiazepines administered to patients before an operation.

Years ago, after my own bout with cancer — a kind that, unlike my sister’s, is often curable — I took a dance class with patients and former patients. There was one elderly woman whose cancer was quite advanced.

One day, her daughter, who was also in the class, told us her mother was lying in bed upstairs in the hospital and had been unconscious for hours. The teacher suggested we take the music and our dance moves upstairs and perform the familiar, gentle routines at her bedside. It was quite a lovely moment.

Since then I have heard of church groups and nonchurch groups that sing at bedsides, and I have come to believe that even a patient who shows no clear response can hear and appreciate the music.

In this story from the Irish Times, music is also being used to calm patients before surgery.

Emer Moreau writes, “Music-based therapy may be a suitable alternative to anti-anxiety benzodiazepines administered to patients before an operation, new research has found.

“Results of a clinical trial published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) showed listening to music had similar effects to that of a sedative offered to calm the nerves before the use of regional anaesthesia.

“The trial, carried out in the University of Pennsylvania, had 157 participants randomly assigned to receive either 1-2mg of midazolam, a type of benzodiazepine, or to listen to Marconi Union’s Weightless series of music. The track is considered to be one of the most relaxing in the world.

“Both groups showed similar reductions in pre-operative anxiety among participants.

“Anxiety is common among patients due to undergo an operation, and can affect postoperative recovery due to increased levels of stress hormones in the body. …

“There are currently 88 music therapists in Ireland, who work in a variety of contexts, including educational settings, care for dementia patients, palliative care, neo-natal settings, oncology, burn treatment, acquired brain injury and stroke. Dr Hilary Moss, the Course Director for the MA in Music Therapy in the University of Limerick, said that music therapy is usually employed alongside other treatments, rather than replacing them.

“The therapy works by ‘engaging in enjoyable activity to change our perception of pain,’ she said. ‘It’s not a cure, but it helps – many patients show significant improvement.’

More here.

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