Do YOU have a fear of Anesthesia or Surgery?


Do YOU have a fear of anesthesia or surgery?  So many people have an intense fear of anesthesia and surgery that they postpone needed surgery, that could greatly improve their quality of life, because they are afraid that they will be in a worse condition, or not wake up at all!  Why do people experience fear this intense?  There can be lots of reasons, as I’ll explain in  this post…

Perhaps you come from a family of people who do not like going to the doctor because “the doctor always finds something wrong.”  Perhaps you know someone who has had a bad experience with surgery or anesthesia.  Perhaps YOU have had a bad experience with surgery or anesthesia.

The fact is, mistakes do happen, but in today’s medical world, surgery and anesthesia have never been more safe.  Fear and anxiety are rampant!   Everyone who is about to have surgery, has an extensive history taken by the doctors and nurses, about how you and other family members have responded to anesthesia in the past.  Thanks to the internet, there is LOTS of excellent, reputable information on the internet.

Still, fear and anxiety are not always rational.  If you have had an unexpected reaction in the past, or a close friend or family member has, you are probably going to be really scared and concerned.  I don’t want to diminish that or say that it’s silly or unwarranted.

Research has shown that when slow, steady, soothing music is played for a patient that has a racing pulse and rapid, shallow breathing, the music can actually slow the patient’s heart and breathing down, and keep them steady!  When this happens, the “relaxation response” kicks in. This is called “rhythmic entrainment.”  The more relaxed your body and muscles are, the easier it is for the doctors and nurses to do what they need to do to help you.

If your muscles are tense and stiff, it’s going to take more medication to relax you, and more medication to wake up from and recover from.  Yes, you also have to recover from the medication!!

So how does music help?



Surgery with Music Blog Series, #17 “What do Hospital Administrators say about Our new book?”


In the last 15 or 20 years, so much has been published in medical journals about the benefits for the patient of music during surgery.  When the patient is listening to music that incorporates rhythmic entrainment, through headphones, wonderful things begin to happen!  My colleagues in music therapy were very insistent that I offer some kind of choice in types of music to the patients.  Initially, the playlist was 50 minutes of classical piano music.  Of course I thought it was beautiful but not everyone likes classical music.  So, o.”ur second playlist was Smooth Jazz.  This was a playlist put together by jazz musicians friends of mine and it does incorporate rhythmic entrainment.  Then my friend Jonathan Goldman offered me a playlist of his beautiful New Age music that utilizes rhythmic entrainment.

Finally, I decided that the best way to disseminate all of the information about the power of music with surgery would be to write a book.  In December of 2019 I published “Having Surgery?  Using Music to reduce Anxiety and Pain Perception.”  I am doing the official “launch” of this book on January 27, Mozart’s birthday!  For a 3-day period you’ll be able to get my book for $1.99!!

Here is what a Vice-President of a hospital wrote:

preparing for surgery

Dr Cash’s book on surgery

It is rare to find a book that is as beneficial to clinicians as it is to patients and their caregivers.  Dr. Alice Cash’s Music for Surgery & Recovery: A Sound Approach to Reduced Anxiety and Faster Healing is such a work.  Laying out findings from her years of dedication to this field, Dr. Cash combines a wealth of useful advice, instructive and inspiring personal and patient stories, and perspectives on research.  The result?  A clear demonstration of how the experience of music correctly applied around the time of surgery and in other stressful situations can enhance resilience and improve both clinical outcomes and quality of life.

As head of clinical research, I worked with hospital administration for over two decades. The possibilities of music decreasing pain perception, especially in this time of the opioid crisis, and of increasing patient satisfaction, which is critically important to reimbursement, is especially exciting.

The organization of the book – moving from well-grounded practical advice for a wide variety of clinical scenarios to the history and science of music medicine to ways in which music can be integrated into medical environments – provides an engaging way both of going deeply into practice and theory and of finding needed concepts and specifics quickly and easily.  Kudos to Dr. Cash!


Day 4 of Music with Surgery Blog Series: Treating Anxiety and Pain Perception


This week we are looking at the many reasons that people use music with their surgeries.  For me, the reason has always been to ease anxiety and to decrease pain perception so that I don’t have to use any more pain medication than is absolutely necessary.  If course I don’t want to feel pain, but I also don’t want to be dependent on or addicted to opioid medication.

It’s not that the Drs don’t know how to prescribe these medications safely, but some people are just inherently prone to addiction.  There seems to be a true genetic tendency that is passed down in families and if that’s the case with your family, you might want to look into whether music will be an option for you!

As it turns out, I will be having surgery myself in less than 48 hours!  Will I be using music?  Of course!!  I’m having cataract surgery this Wednesday morning, January 8, as well as next Wednesday morning, January 15.  I have chosen to use my original pre-loaded headphones with the classical playlist because that’s the kind of music that I prefer.  This beautiful classical piano music is played by my dear friend and local concert pianist, Samuel Hodges.  I’ve heard it probably hundreds of times, but I never get tired of it and it always soothes and comforts me.

What is my anxiety level, you ask?  Well, not to make you uncomfortable, but just the thought of someone touching my eye with a scalpel and removing something, then adding something else, kind of freaks me out!  I know that my doctor is extremely capable and experienced but I’d rather not have surgery if there were any other way to deal with my declining visual acuity.  I know that our headphones have been used in this very facility before but I fully expect to have to convince some of the staff that they are not only perfectly safe, but were actually created for surgery and hold a U.S. Patent!  I went through all of this several years ago when I took a friend for his cataract surgery.  By the time I finished my pitch, everybody wanted to try them out and the surgery center made plans to order them for ALL of their patients!

Now that we have the 5 mobile apps for surgery, it’s even an easier process for people who want to bring their own Bluetooth headphones.  And there are some hospitals and Ambulatory Surgery Centers that are purchasing their own Bluetooth headphones and then subscribing to out playlists on a yearly basis to provide this music to their patients!  It’s great for patient satisfaction scores!

Please pass this link on to your doctors and friends!  Getting the word out is critically important if we want to make the operating room a safer, kinder and friendlier spot!

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