Ep. 167: Having Surgery? Use music to reduce anxiety and pain perception; with Alice Cash, PhD, LCSW

How does music help with surgery?

Photo by cottonbro studio

Renowned clinical musicologist and author Dr. Alice Cash delves into the fascinating world of music medicine, particularly its impact on perioperative care. She explains how carefully curated music allows the power of rhythmic entrainment to significantly reduce anxiety, enhance patient outcomes, and even reduce the need for potentially-addictive medications before, during, and after medical and dental procedures. Dr. Cash shares her journey, success stories, and insights, shedding light on her innovative headphones and app-based solutions that have gained recognition in leading hospitals worldwide.


My guest today is Dr. Alice Cash, a clinical musicologist based in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Cash holds a PhD in Musicology, a Master’s in Piano Performance, and a Master’s in Social Work. She has over 40 years of professional experience as a college professor, clinical therapist, solo and chamber music performer and composer. Dr. Cash’s clinical work at the University of Louisville led to her career in Music Medicine, where she developed expertise in the use of music in perioperative care.


We discuss:

  • Perioperative care, aka perioperative medicine, is the practice of patient-centered, multidisciplinary, and integrated medical care of patients from the moment of contemplation of surgery until full recovery.
  • For purposes of today’s conversation, “surgery” is used to include any medical or dental procedure that can induce anxiety, including dental procedures, labor and delivery, kidney dialysis, and chemo.
  • The difference between Music Therapy and Music Medicine
  • How Alice saw the potential for and developed an interest in incorporating music into surgical experiences
  • Ways that music can improve surgical experiences and patient outcomes
  • How certain musical rhythms and tones influence our biorhythms to synchronize with music
  • Research studies results on using music for surgery
  • Benefits of using music before, during and after surgical procedures
  • Alice’s patented preloaded musical headsets now used in leading hospitals in the US and internationally
  • How Alice’s soundtracks were curated and developed
  • The soundtracks can also be listened to on an app
  • Playlists/genres include Classical, Jazz, New Age, Lullabies, and Memory Care
  • Favorite success stories where the use of music solutions made a noticeable difference in a patient’s surgical journey and recovery

Connect/Other Resources

Other episodes we mentioned or that you may enjoy:

In-Episode Promo

Arts for the Health of It podcast

JAMBAR: This is a quick break to tell you about my new favorite energy bar – a bar that has combined two of my favorite things: music and food! JAMBAR is a Certified Organic whole food bar that was created by Jennifer Maxwell, a food science and nutrition expert, athlete, and musician. Jennifer was also co-creator of the original, iconic PowerBar in the 1980s that launched the entire energy bar industry!

Jennifer’s love for music inspired the creation of JAMBAR, and you can see that reflected in the music-themed flavors that include Musical Mango, Jammin’ Jazzleberry, Chocolate Cha Cha, and Malt Nut Melody.

One of the things I like best about these bars, besides the great taste, is that they are higher in protein and less sweet than the all-natural bars I’ve found in the past. Each JAMBAR is packed with ten grams of protein and is minimally sweetened with only all-natural sweeteners. JAMBARs are non-GMO and gluten-free; and two of the four flavors use plant-based protein, for a dairy-free option.

On top of all that, JAMBAR donates a whopping fifty percent of net profits to programs that support the art of music and active living.

For a convenient way to eat whole foods on the go, while supporting causes that are making the world a better place, join me in reaching for JAMBARs. Available at Amazon, select retailers, and jambar.com. For more info, you can also visit Episode 160.


Alice shares samples of her surgery playlists, which are also available on her website.

Closing Words

Thank you so much to Dr. Cash for joining us today and for all she does to enhance the perioperative experience with music. Dr. Cash is looking to expand these five playlists to include global music; AND she’s interested in retiring in the not-too-distant future; so if this conversation has especially resonated with you and you’re interested in getting involved in Surgical Serenity Solutions in some capacity, please reach out to Alice at DrAlice@surgicalserenitysolutions.com.

All Enhance Life with Music episodes are evergreen; so check out the back catalogue for more ways that music can make your life better.

You can always connect with me on email (mindy@mpetersonmusic.com), Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for joining me today. Until next time, may your life be enhanced with music.

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