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How I Get Through my MRIs Thanks to Music

By Mary Pettigrew

I love music – I love drumming, even though I can’t play the drums. I regularly hear from people who fear their MRIs. Yes, MRIs can really suck. But after more than twenty years of having them, I no longer deal with the anxiety and claustrophobia issues so many others may have. Why you ask? Well, I’ve learned to use music as a way to get through the ‘bing bang bong’ buzzing of the MRI sounds. 

Sure, there are times when I might need a Benedryl to calm me down, but I no longer need antianxiety meds and others of the like to minimize my anxiety while in the tube. I’ve learned to play the music in my head instead.

The radiology tech always asks if I want headphones with music. I used to say, ‘yes please,’ but I found the music and the sounds from the MRI to be far too obnoxious and too much of a sensory overload. The less noise pollution, the better. 

Over the past few years, I’ve chosen to wear earplugs, close my eyes, and just listen to the music in my head as the MRI guides me. I’ve found I’m able to create music from the buzzing, beat sounds from the MRI instead. Do I wish It were a quieter experience? Sure, but that is out of my control. I love music, so I try to play with it based on the sounds instead. 

I’ve written a poem about it too, Magnetic Travels. It can be found on my blog, musettemary.com. This was the beginning of my MRI music journey.

I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called, Count Me In. This is a documentary about drummers. I’m a musician, but not a drummer. Oh, I tried to play, but percussion was not my thing. I do play the piano and a little guitar. My background does involve music. My passion is music – period. Therefore, I play music in my head while lying in the tube. 

I feel the percussion from the machine as it vibrates through my ears and my body. I hear it, so I play with it. There’s nothing else to do with this time as I lay here in this tubular mechanism but to just go ahead and play with it. 

I hear from so many people who say they get claustrophobic while in the MRI tube. They fear it and I understand. Over time, it does get better. Well, at least for me it got better, and I give thanks to percussion. I give thanks to music for making things easier and, yes, even somewhat entertaining going through this MRI experience. I strongly urge you to give it a try. Just try alternative ways to deal with MRI anxiety. I know this is not easy and music is not always natural, nor innate with all of us, but at least it’s worth it to explore.

Music works wonders, whether it be in your head, something you play or listen to, just try something while in the tube. Count me in.