Good Vibrations: The Healing Power of Sound

The vibrations that we hear have powerful therapeutic properties in medicine, spirituality, or even just to cheer up after a difficult day.


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In its most simplistic form, sound refers to a type of energy transmitted as waves or vibrations that produce a sensation in our ears. At the right frequency though, sound can provide a powerful tool for healing that crosses cultural boundaries.

All of us can relate to the power of sound and music. The steady pitter-patter of rain on the rooftop helps relieve stress. A steady beat and guitar riff brings cheer and moves everyone to get on their feet and dance. A familiar song from the past takes you back in time and bring to life a distant memory. The echoing harmony of a choir in a cathedral creates the feeling of heaven on earth.

That evocative power of sound isn’t just imaginary either. For thousands of years, religions have included music as a method for healing. Today, music therapy has become a burgeoning field. Certified therapists use sound as a way to improve medical outcomes in a variety of interesting ways.

Provides Pain Relief

Bob Marley wrote in his song Trenchtown Rock, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” As it turns out, those lyrics apply quite literally. Researchers have found that music can relieve chronic pain caused by arthritis. When done properly, music therapy decreases a person’s perception of pain. It can also reduce the amount of medication a patient needs for pain relief as well as alleviate depression.

Reduces Discomfort from Surgery

Clinicians have started incorporating music as a way to alleviate discomfort after surgeries. Controlled clinical trials of people undergoing colonoscopies, cardiac angiography, and knee surgery experience less anxiety and pain when listening to music before, during, and after a procedure. Results also concluded that patients who listened to music in recovery required fewer painkillers to feel at ease.

Soothes Symptoms of Cancer Therapy

The word cancer alone can cause a lot of fear. Doctors have found that listening to music prior to cancer therapy can not only reduce anxiety but even alleviate symptoms like nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.

Brings Comfort for Dementia Patients

Although patients with dementia experience symptoms of memory loss. They retain the ability to interact and enjoy music even late into the disease process. Music therapy provides a way to help people with dementia to recall memories, reduce feelings of agitation, improve coordination, and aid communication.

Spiritual Sound Healing

Sound healing doesn’t only apply in a medical setting. For thousands of years, religious and spiritual practitioners have used sound for healing. The soft vibrations of Tibetan singing bowls used in sound meditation reduce tension, anger, and depression while increasing overall spiritual well-being. The monophonic Gregorian chants of Catholic monks or sacred mantras of the East not only sound beautiful but also bring calm and healing power.

The dictionary defines healing as “the process of making or becoming sound and healthy again”. It’s not a coincidence that the definition includes the word “sound”. After all, the vibrations that we hear have powerful therapeutic properties in medicine, spirituality, or even just to cheer up after a difficult day.

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