Music to the ears for post-operative patients

If a research paper published in the latest issue of the Indian Journal of Surgery is to be believed, then post-operative patients can ease their pain and reduce their dependence on pain-killers simply by listening to music.

The author of the paper, Coimbatore-based surgeon Thirumurthy Sathish Kumar says that Anandabhairavi, the favourite raga of renowned Carnatic music composer Syama Sastri, helps patients manage their pain better. One of the oldest ragas of Carnatic music, refined over years by legends including Muthuswamy Dikshithar, Thygarajan and Annamacharya, the Anandabhairavi is sweet music to the ears for anyone suffering pain.

Presently a professor of general surgery at Karpagam Medical College Hospital in the city, Sathish Kumar had undertaken this research when he was vice-principal of PSG Institute of Medical Sciences and Research. He conducted his research on 60 patients in the post operative ward, chosen randomly, with the help of his colleagues M Muthuraman and R Krishnakumar.
"The power of Anandabhairavi in reducing blood pressure was established in some earlier studies. Various compositions based on the raga were played to the patients who confirmed that the extent of pain was reduced," said Sathish Kumar.
"Music helps create a positive emotional experience. Many research studies have proved that lack of emotional balance can cause multiple diseases. Classical music can help in creating a positive emotional state," he added.
"Works by great composers like Mozart and Bach have proved capable of improving one's health. At the same time, some forms of music like heavy metal may cause the reverse effect. Music that can create a positive effect in the mind can help cure diseases. Melodies can reduce the quantity of pain killers consumed by half,'' he says.
Sathish Kumar said that it was not essential that one should have prior exposure to classical music to avail its pain-relieving benefits. There were many patients who had never listened to classical music before but they felt some pain relief when listening to the Anandabhairavi.
A big fan of music, Satish is known for playing music while conducting surgeries. "I normally play melodic compositions during surgeries. This helps me concentrate better on the assigned work and remain calm," he says. Over the years, he has won the cooperation of fellow doctors and medical staff in playing music in the operation theatre.
Satish Kumar hails from a business family in the city. According to him, his family had no interest or background in music. It was in the eighties when he was doing his MBBS that he developed an interest in Western Piano. When he went to the US to pursue higher studies, he heard classical music for the first time in a relative's house and completely fell in love with it. His favourite composers include Shyama Sastri, Muthuswamy Dikshitar, Papanasam Sivan and Gopalakrishna Bharathi. He says that there are other ragas which have been noted for their healing effects. For instance, the 'sahana raga' is called the raga of the 'sarvaroganivarana chakra', which means a cure for all ailments.
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