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The Sound of Better Breathing: Benefits of Music

Woman Jogging in Park

Do you ever feel better after hearing one of your favorite songs? That effect may be more profound than you think. If you’ve found yourself wondering whether there are health benefits to music, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that they do exist.

ARE THERE HEALTH BENEFITS TO MUSIC

Other than the potential to improve your mood in the moment, what are the health benefits to music? Music has been linked to a number of health benefits, both physical and mental. Studies show that listening to music not only helps improve your mood temporarily, but it can also help combat depression.[1] Music has also been shown to improve blood flow, ease pain, lower stress hormones like cortisol and lower blood pressure. Listening to music regularly also improves cognitive performance and has been shown to help stroke patients recover faster.[2]  It can even improve surgical and post-surgery outcomes.[2][3]

These profound effects may be due to the way that music affects your brain. Scientists have found that music activates nearly every region of the brain that we have mapped thus far.[1] Studies also indicate that listening to music may promote plasticity within the brain, allowing it to make new connections between nerve cells.[2]  Some of those benefits can directly improve your breathing if you’re suffering from COPD or another condition.

Research from a variety of sources consistently details the benefits of listening to music. It’s used in palliative care, for patients living with chronic illness and for patients recovering from illness or procedures.[3][4][5] Many of the health benefits to music are accessible in your home, where you can relax with music on, with your home oxygen concentrator by your side. Here are a few that especially benefit chronically ill patients:

  • Improves Quality of Sleep
  • Reduces Stress
  • Reduces Anxiety
  • Eases Pain
  • Improves Exercise Endurance

IMPROVES SLEEP QUALITY

One study found that listening to classical music led to a decrease in sleeping problems. Another study found that music use, regardless of genre, was a significant predictor in higher sleep quality.[6] A high percentage of COPD patients report sleeping problems of some kind, and the research indicates that COPD patients could benefit from better sleep quality by listening to music at night.

While it won’t have the same clinical guarantees as taking medication to help you sleep, the beauty of using music as a sleep-aid is that it is a low-risk option with additional health benefits. Not only will you benefit from the calming effect of music, but you may also experience the additional benefits. Plus, listening to music comes with no side effects or price tag.

REDUCES STRESS

Stress, like sleep, is an important factor when it comes to breathing in general, but particularly for COPD patients. Increased stress means an increased chance of flare-ups and breathing difficulty. So if listening to music can reduce stress levels for you, as studies suggest, then it is a worthy pursuit.

Listening to music in order to reduce stress is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and for good reason. A meta-analysis of 400 studies found that music reduces stress and improves the way the body’s immune system functions.[7] In addition, listening to and making music has been shown to decrease cortisol levels, heart rate and blood pressure.[8] In short, music triggers biochemical stress reducers to kick in, helping to reduce your stress.

With music on, your stress is more likely to be manageable. When your stress is under control, it’s easier for you to breathe effectively and efficiently, helping you get more of the oxygen you need.

REDUCES ANXIETY

While it can be hard to identify in the moment, the subtle difference between stress and anxiety is that stress comes from a place of frustration, while anxiety comes from a place of fear and the unknown.

As with stress, music has been shown to have positive effects in quelling anxiety. That’s because music is able to relax the body and mind. Since studies have found that listening to soothing music tends to decrease blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol, the body is better able to relax and combat anxiety.[8] Additional studies have shown that music reduces the respiratory rate, heart rate and blood pressure, and had an overall beneficial effect on anxiety in people with cancer.[9] 

Like cancer patients, COPD patients experience a lot of anxiety as symptoms progress. A small but effective measure in subduing that anxiety could be simply putting on a relaxing tune and closing your eyes.

EASES PAIN

Beyond the mental strain of stress and anxiety, music even has shown benefits for dealing with physical pain. Music therapy has been tested on patients experiencing short-term pain, like during a dental procedure, and experiencing long-term chronic pain, like with a chronic disease. Overall, music has been shown to decrease pain perception, reduce the amount of pain medication needed and help patients achieve a sense of control over their pain.[10] 

Music reduces the perceived intensity of pain, so while it can’t eliminate the cause of your pain, your experience of the pain could significantly improve. Additionally, listening to music helps you handle the pain, which is particularly helpful for anyone living with chronic pain or illness. Music could serve as a nice supplement to pain relievers while resting, and it may ultimately mean that you experience more effective pain relief without exclusively relying on medication.

IMPROVES EXERCISE

Exercise can be a challenge for anyone, but it is particularly challenging for people struggling with chronic disease, like COPD, or living with illness or pain. Thankfully, music helps in this situation, too. Listening to music while participating in rehabilitation exercises has been shown to enhance physical, psychological, cognitive and emotional functionality.[11][12][13] Moreover, one study shows that listening to music with a high tempo increases the benefits of exercise and makes it feel easier. The benefits appear to be even better for exercises like walking, which is great news for anyone trying to incorporate regular moderate exercise into their life.  

For patients who rely on oxygen therapy for better breathing, Inogen’s portable oxygen concentrators make it much easier to maintain an exercise routine. The importance of exercise cannot be understated for anyone, but particularly for patients with COPD. With the help of music to increase workout endurance, you’ll find it even easier to maintain a regular exercise schedule.

EXPERIENCE THE HEALTH BENEFITS TO MUSIC

It may not seem like listening to music will drastically change one’s life in any particular way. However, the studies show that it can help in a variety of ways, many of which are strongly linked to the quality of breathing in COPD patients. In fact, there are enough health benefits to music that incorporating more of it into your life could make a significant difference for you. 

Improving your breathing may require relying on medical oxygen, but it can also be improved even more by bringing more music into your life. As you can see, pushing play could do a lot more for you than you thought.

All that’s left to do is take the advice from the Doobie Brothers and listen to the music:

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: HEALTH BENEFITS TO MUSIC

What are the health benefits of music?

There are a variety of health benefits to music, including reduced stress, anxiety, blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate. It can also help with improved sleep, better pain management, improved exercise endurance and more. So how does music affect your health? A lot more than you might realize!

Does music have healing powers?

Studies show music is beneficial for those healing from surgery, strokes and cancer. Some studies indicate that certain musical sounds, used during vibroacoustic therapy, can have healing effects for people with chronic back pain, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia and more.[7][14] 

 

Sources:

[1] Heid, Markham. “Is Listening to Music Good For Your Health?” Time, Time, 26 Apr. 2018, time.com/5254381/listening-to-music-health-benefits/. 

[2] “Music and Health.” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard University, July 2011, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/music-and-health. 

[3] Christ, Scott. “20 Surprising, Science-Backed Health Benefits of Music.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 17 Dec. 2013, www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2013/12/17/health-benefits-music/4053401/. 

[4] “10 Health Benefits of Music.” Get Healthy Stay Healthy, Pfizer, 30 Aug. 2017, www.gethealthystayhealthy.com/articles/10-health-benefits-of-music. 

[5] “9 Health Benefits of Music.” NorthShore University Healthcare System, NorthShore University Healthcare System, 31 Dec. 2020, www.northshore.org/healthy-you/9-health-benefits-of-music/. 

[6] Trahan, Tabitha, et al. “The Music That Helps People Sleep and the Reasons They Believe It Works: A Mixed Methods Analysis of Online Survey Reports.” PloS One, Public Library of Science, 14 Nov. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6235300/. 

[7] Novotney, Amy. “Music as Medicine.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, Nov. 2013, www.apa.org/monitor/2013/11/music. 

[8] de Witte, Martina, et al. “Effects of Music Interventions on Stress-Related Outcomes: a Systematic Review and Two Meta-Analyses.” Health Psychology Review, Taylor & Francis Online, 15 June 2019, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17437199.2019.1627897. 

[9] Bradt, Joke, et al. “Music Interventions for Improving Psychological and Physical Outcomes in Cancer Patients.” The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 15 Aug. 2016, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27524661/. 

[10] “How Music Can Help You Heal.” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard University, Feb. 2016, www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/how-music-can-help-you-heal. 

[11] Overman, Deborah. “Incorporating Music Into Rehab Sessions Could Benefit Physical…” Physical Therapy Products, Medqor, 20 Sept. 2019, ptproductsonline.com/industry-news/research-development/incorporating-music-rehab-sessions-benefit-physical-therapy-patients/. 

[12] “Rehabilitation Research: How Music Aids In Brain Function.” ACRM, American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, 31 Oct. 2018, acrm.org/rehabilitation-research/the-role-of-music-in-rehabilitation/. 

[13] Hastings, Conn. “Tunes for Training: High-Tempo Music May Make Exercise Easier and More Beneficial.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 2 Feb. 2020, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200202105147.htm. 

[14] Lim, Einly, et al. “Treatment of Chronic Back Pain Using Indirect Vibroacoustic Therapy: A Pilot Study.” Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 28 Nov. 2018, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30149436/.

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