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Healing With Harmony: Music In Medicine

Healing With Harmony: Music In Medicine

CREATED Apr 30, 2013

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Whether it's pop, hip-hop, country, or classical, we all have favorite songs that make us move or simply move us. But could music help as we battle different diseases and conditions?

Danielle Decosmo's stage is a hospital room.

"It just uplifts you," cancer patient, Virginia, told Ivanhoe.

The hospital volunteer plays for cancer patients like Virginia.

"It does a lot towards helping you get the right attitude to heal, instead of feeling down and sorry for yourself," Virginia's husband David, told Ivanhoe.

"I do see a change often," Decosmo told Ivanhoe. "I definitely think music helps people heal."

Board Certified Music Therapist Elizabeth Stegemoller knows it does.

"Music stimulates multiple areas of the brain," she told Ivanhoe.

The neuroscience PhD specializes in Parkinson's and said walking in time with music can help patients overcome walking difficulties.

"If you have a person with a motor disorder, you can use music to help facilitate movement," explained Dr. Stegemoller.

She told us after singing training, Parkinson's patients' speech can improve too.

A program at Saint Louis University is testing if music improves cancer treatment by decreasing patients' stress.  Research at the University of Kentucky found it did reduce surgery patients' pain and recovery time. And it's been shown to increase Alzheimer's patients' cognitive function. Stegemoller says, more research is needed to find out what music changes in the brain.

"There's a lot of theories out there as to why it's working, so now those theories need to be tested," Dr. Stegemoller, said.

In the meantime, music seems to be making Virginia's treatment a little more bearable.

"You just feel good," Virginia said.

Music programs for vets with P.T.S.D. are showing promise.  A study funded by the VA found vets given six weeks of guitar lessons reported a 21 percent reduction in overall symptoms and a 37 percent increase in health related quality of life.


BACKGROUND: Music has been used in medicine for thousands of years. Ancient Greek philosophers believed that music could heal both the body and the soul. When King Saul was having bad dreams, young David would play the lyre for him and this would calm the tormented king. Native Americans have used singing and chanting as part of their healing rituals for millennia. The more formal approach to music therapy began in World War II, when U.S. Veterans Administration hospitals began to use music to help treat soldiers suffering from shell shock. (SOURCE: http://www.cancer.org/)

MUSIC THERAPY IN THE 21ST CENTURY: Today, music therapy is used by health care professionals to promote healing and enhance quality of life for their patients. Music therapy may be used to encourage emotional expression, promote social interaction, relieve symptoms, and for other purposes. (SOURCE: http://www.cancer.org/)

MUSICAL THERAPIST: Today, more than seventy colleges and universities have degree programs that are approved by the American Music Therapy Association. Music therapists must have at least a bachelor's degree, 1,200 hours of clinical training, and one or more internships before they can be certified. There are thousands of professional music therapists working in health care settings in the United States today. They serve as part of cancer-management teams in many hospitals and cancer centers, helping to plan and evaluate treatment. Some music therapy services are covered by health insurance. (SOURCE: http://www.cancer.org/)

INTERVENTION: Some research suggests that music-based interventions can be effective in reducing anxiety, pain perception and sedative intake. Music that is selected by trained personnel is preferred because specific guidelines for music selection should be followed in order to maximize its positive effect on patients. Music therapy interventions can be designed to:

  • Promote Wellness
  • Manage Stress
  • Alleviate Pain
  • Express Feelings
  • Enhance Memory
  • Improve Communication
  • Promote Physical Rehabilitation

(SOURCE: http://uknow.uky.edu/)


Elizabeth L. Stegemöller, PhD, MT-BC