Music has often been called the universal language. Even science backs up the therapeutic prowess that music possesses. From improving cognitive function to reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression, music can truly heal. Doctors use music therapy to help patients undergoing surgery to relax, feel less pain, and help faster. In this article, we will discuss how music can be used to medically heal patients suffering from certain diseases.
How Music Heals
Through research we have learned that music may help release stress by reducing the body’s cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone released in response to stress. Health psychologist Shilagh Mirgain, PhD, offers some valuable tips to help you relax, improve health and improve your mood. (Source: uwhealth.org)
Listen to Your Sound Environment
If you have to attend a meeting that could be stressful, select a place with soothing background music. Loud environments like restaurants with live music can aggravate the state of tension and stress. As discussed, music has a profound impact on our mood and subconscious mind. Just as it could soothe our nerves, loud and upbeat music could further cause tension and take the discussion in a negative direction.
Unable to sleep? Tossing around in your bed for lack of sleep? Turn on some soothing classical or relaxing music an hour before bedtime. As music has the power to heal, it can help create a sense of relaxation and lead to improved sleep. Relaxing music soothes the autonomic nervous system responsible for controlling automatic or unconscious processes. According to the Sleep Foundation, music calms parts of the autonomic nervous system, stabilizes breathing and heart rate, and reduces blood pressure to induce restful sleep.
Keeps You Calm in Heavy Traffic
If you feel agitated while driving through heavy traffic, music could be exactly what you need. Put on your favorite number while you drive through the congested roads. Music will make you feel relaxed, calm your anxious nerves, and bring down your frustration. Once calm, you can easily sail through the traffic and drive even more safely than before.
Improves Mental Health
Numerous studies have shown that listening to good music has a positive impact on mental health. Barbara Else, senior advisor of policy and research at the American Music Therapy Association states that the elements of music and sound are embedded in our physiology, functioning, and being. This indicates that playing an instrument can improve brain diseases. As per a 2011 study, listening to music increases the amount of dopamine produced in the human brain, Dopamine is a chemical that enhances mood and is a feasible treatment for depression.
Music enhances alertness and improves reaction times & long-term memory, to name a of the mental benefits of music. Studies show that children who learn to play music perform better at math and have improved language skills.
Reduces Medical Anxiety
If you are feeling stressed about medical treatment, let the music be your savior. Put your earbuds in and listen to your favorite tunes while sitting in the waiting room at your doctor’s clinic. This will ease anticipatory anxiety before a medical procedure, such as a dental procedure, MRI, or injection. Many health care providers play music to calm the patient during certain procedures, like a colonoscopy, mammogram or even a cavity filling. As music has the power to heal, it diverts the patient’s mind, relaxes them, offers a positive experience and can improve your medical outcome.
What is Music Therapy?
Music therapy is the evidence-based clinical use of music to treat certain ailments, namely stress and depression, blood pressure, cognitive functions, pain and self-expression. Music therapy includes myriad music activities including listening, singing, playing instruments, or composing music. After an evaluation, therapists could include treatment options of creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music. Music therapy works on psychological disciplines like psychodynamic, behavioral, and humanistic therapeutic approaches to positively impact the human brain.
Types of Music Therapy
Music therapy has often given insights into feelings that cannot be expressed verbally. It opens up new avenues for communication and is particularly useful for teens.
The two different kinds of music therapy include:
- Active music therapy- The therapist and the patient play musical instruments, sing, or create music using other objects.
- Receptive music therapy- The therapist plays or makes music or plays instruments while the patient listens.
(Source: newportacademy.com )
Benefits of Music Therapy
The outcome of music therapy is scientifically proven to improve emotional responses and cognitive, and physical health. Tim, a board-certified music therapist at Newport Academy reveals how life-changing the field of music therapy has been. He sees the miracles regularly, and how his music therapy positively impacts his patients’ health.
Tim has played a key role in advocating music therapy sessions in numerous clinical settings and for diverse populations. He has extended his music therapy sessions for the benefit of autistic students, cancer survivors, children and adults with developmental disabilities, people with Alzheimer’s, and hospice patients. Currently, he offers music therapy at the Newport Academy, to adolescents and adults undergoing treatment for substance abuse.
Let’s find out how music therapy has some powerful effects.
Music Enhances Mindfulness
As rightfully said by the late neurologist, Oliver Sacks in his book “Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain,” music is essential to being human in ways that we’ve only begun to understand.
Isn’t that beautifully said?
Music helps patients concentrate on the present. It helps them combat the fear of the future and the unknown. This is especially true in the case of teens. When they play music, they become more aware of their present surroundings. Thus, their levels of well-being go up, because mindfulness is scientifically proven to enhance mental health. It should be noted that we don’t always need an instrument to create music. Dancing, singing, and clapping all offer the benefits of music therapy.(Source: powerfulpatients.org)
Emotional Expression for Adolescents
Sometimes teens need to express themselves and release emotions through mediums other than speech; for example, if you play the drum, you might be using it as a source to vent out a strong reaction, anger, frustration, or more.
Playing or making any kind of music stimulates the brain to produce dopamine. This means that music can produce the same high produced by drugs. Music is a positive way to feel happy.
Relaxes the Nervous System
Scientists have found that rhythm can affect the nervous system. Specifically, simply listening to music has a measurable positive effect on the psychobiological stress system.
Take the case of Parkinson’s patients. When these patients are unable to walk, music gives them a pulse that causes neurons in their brain in the basal ganglia, the cerebellum, and the motor action centers to resume coordination. As a result, it helps them start walking. Even our heartbeat, sleep, and breathing patterns are all controlled by rhythm. (Source: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/inside-the-effort-to-make-music-that-heals)
Addresses Social Issues
Music can be an extraordinary gift for loneliness. Whether you are a single child or an aged person suffering from acute pain, music heals all. As a part of end-of-life care, therapists play their favorite songs to aged people to empower their emotions and establish neural connections. Music helps them overcome loneliness and find happiness.
Unleashes Your Creativity
Making music and writing lyrics gives teens a chance to display their creative side. In turn, creativity has been proven to foster mental health. A recent study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology studied 650 young adults. It was inferred that the participants felt more positive and prosperous on the days following increased creativity.
The benefits of music therapy at a glance:
- Positive mood changes
- Improving self-esteem
- Lowering blood pressure
- Improving cognitive functions and memory
- Better social and communication skills
- Self-reflection and awareness
- Reducing muscle tension due to mind and body relaxation
- Better interpersonal relationships
- Increasing motivation.
- Managing pain
- Increasing positivity and joy
Source: American Music Therapy Association
Evidence for the Benefits of Music Therapy
A 2004 study reviewed that music therapy could have a positive impact on substance abuse disorder and mental disorders. As music therapy releases positive emotions, the study revealed that music released emotions in substance abuse patients without the need for substance use.
Also, research done on adolescents showing symptoms of depression concluded that sound therapy stimulated their brain activity and levels of cortisol (the “stress hormone”). The researchers concluded that music had a positive impact on their physiological and biochemical composition.
In another study, researchers studied the benefits of music therapy for preadolescents with emotional, learning, and behavioral disorders. The results suggested that music therapy improved their self-expression and motor skills. They could channel their negative emotions like frustration, anger, and aggression into creativity and self-realization.
As per Harvard Health Publishing, music can improve the quality of life in several ways:
Improves response to invasive procedures. In controlled clinical trials of people, those who listened to music before their procedure could manage their anxiety levels and pain perception.
Restores lost speech. Beverly Merz, the Executive Editor of Harvard Women’s Health Watch, states that music therapy has aided people in recovering from a stroke or brain injury that has damaged the left-brain region responsible for speech. Along with music therapies, and inpatient speech and language therapy, patients have witnessed tremendous improvement and increased fluency in speech.
Reduces side effects of cancer therapy. Music therapy helps the patient manage the anxiety associated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It also combats the side effects like nausea and vomiting for patients receiving chemotherapy.
Aids pain relief. Music therapy reduces the sensation of pain, reduces the dose of pain medication needed, and helps relieve depression. It is also known to reduce acute pain and suffering by diverting and relaxing the mind.
Improves quality of life for dementia patients. Music therapy can help with memory loss, reduce agitation, and symptoms of depression, and improve physical coordination as well as communication. Several Anxiety Resource centers offer music therapies to people with physical and emotional distress.
Where Does Music Therapy Take Place?
Music therapies are given at centers that are easily accessible by patients, namely hospitals, schools, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, and mental health centers. Music therapists also visit homes for individuals with acute pain, developmental disabilities, and brain diseases.
Music therapists also work with adolescents at juvenile detention facilities, schools and private practices. They use music as a means to establish deeper connections to understand the patient’s psychology. They try to decipher the root cause of aimlessness in the life of such people.
Is Music Therapy Out-Patient or In-Patient?
Whether the music therapy is delivered outpatient or inpatient depends on the individual’s health and type of program. You can attend music sessions during the day, with an appointment. For severe cases, the music therapist may come to you while you’re admitted into the hospital or at school. Sometimes music therapy is held in groups to nurture deeper connections among participants.
How to Find a Music Therapist?
If you are facing any of the above illnesses as discussed in this article, or just want relief from the stress of daily life or need help executing an exercise regime, a music therapist may come to your rescue. You can find one on the website of the American Music Therapy Association.
When Should I Contact My Healthcare Provider?
If you are getting healed by a music therapist, let them know all your symptoms and health ailments. Update the music therapist regarding your symptoms, goals and scheduling appointments. Don’t hesitate to contact them if you are feeling unwell. If your physical health does not seem to be improving, do contact your primary healthcare provider if you have issues or questions.
Does Insurance Cover Music Therapy?
Children and young adults may be eligible for music therapy services under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In certain cases, patients undertake private treatment from music therapists. They have to privately pay their music therapist out-of-pocket.
Music has been used as a means of healing since the late 18th century. By the 20th century, healers, physicians, and musicians were using this incredible gift as a treatment for various diseases. Many people have been healed by the treatment of music and resumed their normal lives with the help of competent music therapists.