Music Therapy – Improving Health

If listening to a classical concerto makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, music therapy may unlock the secrets to life’s many mysteries for you. Similarly, if hearing an Abba song or even a cheesy old Marie Osmond recording makes you swoon with joy and delight and can bring you out of a funk, then music therapy may be just what you need.

Music therapy is thought to originate in veterans’ hospitals, helping those who came back ravaged from the war acclimate better to the often traumatic injuries they suffered.

Actually, music therapy is not as daft as it may seem. The idea is that music is used as a therapeutic vehicle to achieve goals that are not really related to music at all. The parallels are obvious: speech and singing, walking and movement, rhythm and motor skills. As music has been scientifically proven to enhance mood as well, it’s thought that music therapy can optimize people’s abilities to interact and communicate on many, many levels.

People who can benefit from music therapy are manifold. They can be both adults and children, either those who suffer from certain disabilities, or those who have chronic health problems. Advocates of this type of therapy say it works in a variety of ways, and can improve not only an individual’s emotional well being, but also help them physically, cognitively, socially and even on an aesthetic level.

Some people find it hard to communicate for a variety of different and varied reasons that are either developmental, social and/or physical, and feel that communication through or with the use of music is the best way to open up. Music is used purely as a vehicle; it’s thought that the communication between the patient and the therapist is the most crucial aspect.

According to the American Music Therapy Association website, music therapy can:

* promote wellness

* manage stress

* alleviate pain

* express feelings

* enhance memory

* improve communication

* promote physical rehabilitation

History of Music Therapy

The use of music to make us feel happy has been around for time immemorial, while the therapeutic effects of music have been recorded more than 1,500 years ago. The idea of music as an established therapy, however, has only been around since World War II, at least in the United States.

Music therapy is thought to originate in veterans’ hospitals, helping those who came back ravaged from the war acclimate better to the often traumatic injuries they suffered. An undergraduate degree program in the discipline was founded at Michigan State University not long after, and the rest is history. Many universities now offer degree programs in music therapy, and it is not as uncommon as you might think.

In case it all looks a tiny bit airy-fairy, rest assured that contemporary music therapists must go through intense training before they become certified. This includes not only gaining counseling and health skills, but also reaching proficiency levels in guitar, voice, music theory, piano, improvisation, and music history and reading music, as well as other disciplines.

Music Therapy and Strokes

Music therapy to help people with strokes is seen as being especially important as music has been shown to have a strong impact on the brain, affecting particularly social interactions and emotions. The therapy has been proven to help people who have experienced strokes improve their speech and communication, cognition, mood, motivation, movement and muscle control.

This can be accomplished by a variety of exercises set out by a trained music therapist. They include rhyming, chanting and singing to exercise mouth muscles, playing on the drum to exercise arm muscles and control and creating songs to match the patient’s gait.

Particular emphasis is put on exercises that can increase mood and motivation, which in turn affect a lot of other activities. They include song-writing, lyric writing, performing, improvisation and more. “The emotional and aesthetic qualities of music are used to improve mood, to increase motivation, and to assist in pain management,” says the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function.

Music Therapy and Heart Disease

Music therapy can also help heart patients. An American Heart Association Scientific journal reported the results of an Italian study saying that music can “synchronize and influence” the cardiovascular system, and that crescendos increased the heart rate and lowered blood pressure.

Previous studies showed that music could be used as a therapeutic tool for people with neurological impairments. The studies showed that music improved athletic performance, enhanced motor skills and reduced stress overall for people with impaired brain function.

There is also evidence that music therapy can help limit nausea and vomiting experienced by cancer patients on a course of chemotherapy, and that it can help alleviate symptoms of depression and insomnia.

Music Thanatology for the Sick and Dying

Another aspect of music therapy that is less widely prescribed is known as music thanatology, dervied from the Greek term “thanatos”, which means death. It involves the use of music to help with the physical and spiritual care of people who are dying, and to help their loved ones deal with the grief when they eventually do pass away. Incorporating the use of music in palliative care programs is becoming more and more common, as people begin to understand the benefits it can bring.

Music thanatology can take many forms. Sometimes a trained musician will come to a dying person’s home and play harp music for them. Other times people will play a “music vigil” for the dying patient, easing their passing and providing support and comfort to their friends and relatives as well.

“The goal is to support the patient and family, not to seek applause. Some musicians avoid using words like ‘perform’ or ‘performance’ to describe what they do, because these words may put focus on the person creating the music rather than on the patient for whom the music is being played,” says growthhouse.org, whose motto is “Improving care for the dying”.

A music-based approach has been scientifically proven to help people in many aspects of their lives. Both children and adults can benefit from its application. Look for a music therapist near you if you think you or someone you know could benefit from this well established health care profession. And the next time you hear a rendition of Paper Roses, suppress the urge to run the other way and think how much it could do for you…

The information in the article is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care an appropriate health care provider.

Music Therapy Research Breakthroughs

In the aim to establish more concrete evidences that music therapy can be part of any treatment approach or technique, research was conducted to take a closer look on the positive reactions that patients exhibit when expose to it. Music therapy has always been associated to be useful in many sicknesses and concerns related to all aspects of living. It was determined that music therapy has all the entitlement to be given credit as a sensible element of health care management.

The research carried out covers different health care fields demonstrated a clear picture of the direct results of music therapy in the relief of many hard to treat problems. These patients responded positively and have shown remarkable improvements in their conditions.

Alzheimer’s disease manifests symptoms including faulty cognitive skills, great alterations in social behavior, and motor skill discrepancies. The research makes available three kinds of music therapy treatments in the hope that they can stimulate cognitive function enhancements. These are musically cued reminiscence, verbally cued reminiscence, and musical activity; music therapy treatments that have been proven to be effective in inducing the memory recollection of persons afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

In the evaluation, it was distinguished that musically and verbally cued reminiscence helped in the improvement of specified brain functions. It was recorded that significant increase in language abilities was observed in some patients who have been subjected to the aforementioned musical therapy treatments. However, those who have been opened to the elements of musical activities have shown greater substantial improvements in all the other areas most especially with social behavior concerns. The most effective approach used is by means of using songs that enhances memories and conversation.

The benefits of these methods are more noteworthy in patients afflicted with distressing chronic pain. Music therapy research was carried out to establish a link on how this treatment can alleviate the pain suffered by chronic pain patients.

Based on the chronic pain studies, music therapy can be helpful because the perception of the brain for both music and pain are equal. This means the brain receives sensation on both concerns within the same level. This developed the theory that you can use music therapy at the same time that a person is under bouts of chronic pain; this is because the brain’s part that is sensitive to music will react and cancel out the pain throbs, thus decreases the level of pain that is actually felt.

Different medical conditions can benefit from this type of therapy like Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and other unending illnesses. Music can also play a great part in lowering the level of pain felt during labor and child delivery, momentary and transitory pains, and other kinds of pain twinges.

Music therapy is also of assistance in the pain management plan and treatment plans for cancer patients. Children suffering from cancer are often subjected to music therapy treatments like singing, which has proven to create remarkable improvement in their immune system. The immune system is always the first to be given enough emphasis so as to prevent the occurrence of other complications.

Is Music Therapy For You?

Some like it soothing while some prefer to dance to the tune; some resort to it to escape reality while others try to find the meaning of life in lyrics, but rarely would you come across anyone who does not like music. Often your heart rate speeds up and scientifically there has been proof of changes in blood pressure and hormone level due to music (the change in blood pressure depends upon the kind of music you listen to, while metal and rock would create a positive change, soothing music helps to regulate blood pressure). The foundation of music therapy is the instant connection and emotional relationship that one creates with music.

In a more theoretical sense, music therapy is the clinical use of music to therapeutically help in achieving individual goals. This alternative health care field has been around for centuries and was initially mainly used on infants and seniors with physical, emotional, and mental health issues.

Over the last few years, the practice of music therapy by credentialed professionals have increased the scope of the therapy by not limiting it to just a particular demography. Today, people from every walk of life can immensely benefit from music therapy.

Since the very basis of the therapy is something that most people are actively or passively involved in, music therapy could have more far-reaching benefits than other healing techniques since the participant will instantly feel a connection. While every therapists approach is different, music therapy largely makes use of composing tune or lyrics or simply listening to certain types of music.

So, who can benefit from music therapy?

Looking to de-stress or simply charge up your body for that workout, music therapy helps leaps and bounds. However, the scope is much wider panning to various psychological and physiological ailments.

Hearing Impairment– Considering that a very few percentage of hearing impaired people cannot hear at all. Others experience some amount of sensation, and music therapy can help such people as the tempo, wavelength, intonation, and rhythm help the hearing impaired to basically improve upon their speech. When hearing impaired children (note: Speech formation happens during the first five years of life, which is why music therapy will help hearing impaired children more) had been subjected to music therapy, they had shown quite an improvement in their speech formation in terms of vocabulary, syntax, and tone.

Autism– Several psychologists and authors have affirmed that children and adult with autism can immensely benefit by listening to certain types of music. Given their uncommon inclination towards music, music therapy will give the special people a chance to experience- without coming in direct human contact- outside stimuli. In a lot of cases when music therapy was applied along with the ongoing treatment, the participants had shown better improvement in terms of socio-economical factors. The experiment reported lesser isolation periods and social withdrawal. However, it should be kept in mind that owing to the sensitivity of their condition, it is best that they receive music therapy from an experienced and highly trained individual.

Chronic Pain– Pain and music are both sensory inputs, as such that in terms of pain when the signal is sent to the brain the person would feel pain as the output comes from the site of emotional synthesis in the brain or the limbic system. The main aim of using music therapy to alleviate pain is to work on the vibrations, and to merge the vibration of the music with that of the pain. The music diverts the patient’s focus from all the physical symptoms, and which is why apart from pain music therapy also works in case of nausea.

Substance Abuse– For most people growing up and when they were introduced to their first pint of vodka or joint, it was almost always with friends or at a party. 80% of people have agreed that they like tripping with some sort of music playing in the background- generally Pink Floyd and the likes. Music has a profound influence on our mood so much so that in due time it can change our traits. For instance people who tend to listen to a lot of metal and rock music are often aggressive, which is evident by the ‘wall of death’ phenomenon at various metal concerts. The wall of death is basically the fans dividing into two groups and when the aggressive beats kick in, they charge at each other. This results in injuries and sometime death. Anyway, the purpose is to explain the degree of influence music has on our brain and hence on us. And just like it can turn people aggressive and lead to heavy substance abuse, it can work to help them kick the habit as well.

Depression– The number of depressed people today would easily surpass the number of obese people in every country combined. Depression affects people of all ages and the musical stimulus directly has an effect on the emotional and mental changes. The therapists often combine theory-based techniques to increase the effectiveness of music for stress and depression.

Although the reception to this alternative health care technique has often been mixed, a lot of studies and experimentations are being conducted to establish the efficacy of music therapy. The easiest way is by listening to soothing music to meditate or calm your mind whenever you are depressed or stressed.