Healing Hands - In music, a therapy for all

August 25, 2017 - 295 views

“Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast.”

– William Congreve, in “The Mourning Bride,” 1697.

Music plays an important role in the daily life of many people. Some rely on music to get them through their morning routine, while others listen to it to stay inspired during a workout. Many folks even have their iTunes on when they’re cooking a meal, taking a shower or folding the laundry. And how many of you, when you hear a tune from your past, think back on those times and reflect on what you were doing back then?

Music is quite often linked to mood. A certain song may make us feel happy, sad, energetic or relaxed. In fact since music can have such an impact on a person’s mindset and well-being, music therapy has been studied for use in managing numerous medical conditions.

Music has a calming effect on people. It causes them to be friendlier to others. This often benefits the relationships between patients and hospital employees. Music is being used more often in medical facilities where it can be needed the most. “There is a growing body of evidence that music therapy is more than just a perk for people”, says Dr. Victor Filadora, chief of clinical services at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, which has an expansive music program. “Researchers are looking at how it’s improving outcomes and quality of life,” according to Dr. Filadora.

Controlled trials have been conducted and suggest that music can reduce anxiety as well as the need for as much sedation during colonoscopies, some heart-related procedures and knee surgeries, said Filadora, an anesthesiologist. Some research shows that if you are listening to music in the recovery area, you might decrease the need for narcotics, he said. It also appears to decrease the worry for those in cancer treatment, as well as the nausea and vomiting that can be a side effect of chemotherapy.

Neuroscientists have discovered that listening to music heightens positive emotion through the reward centers of our brain, stimulating hits of dopamine that can make us feel good or even elated. Listening to music also lights up other areas of the brain — in fact, almost no brain center is left untouched — suggesting more widespread effects and potential uses for music.

Music can also prevent anxiety-induced increases in heart rate and systolic blood pressure, and decrease cortisol levels — all biological markers of stress. In one study, researchers found that patients receiving surgery for hernia repair who listened to music after surgery experienced decreased plasma cortisol levels and required significantly less morphine to manage their pain. In another study involving surgery patients, the stress reducing effects of music were more powerful than the effect of an orally-administered anxiolytic drug.

Music has a unique ability to help with pain management. In a 2013 study, 60 people diagnosed with fibromyalgia- a disease characterized by severe musculoskeletal pain- were randomly assigned to listen to music once a day over a four-week period. In comparison to a control group, the group that listened to music experienced significant pain reduction and fewer depressive symptoms.

In another recent study, patients undergoing spine surgery were instructed to listen to self-selected music on the evening before their surgery through the second day after their surgery. When measured on pain levels post surgery, that group had significantly less pain than a control group who didn’t listen to music.

Music may aid memory. Music enjoyment elicits dopamine release, and dopamine release has been tied to motivation, which in turn is implicated in learning and memory. In a study published in 2014, adult students studying Hungarian were asked to speak, to speak in a rhythmic fashion, or to sing phrases in the unfamiliar language. Afterwards, when asked to recall the foreign phrases, the singing group fared significantly better than the other two groups in recall accuracy.

The power of music has been used to help those struggling with mental illness, undergoing medical testing or recovering from a stroke. Dementia patients have benefited from the ability of familiar songs to stir brain activity. It is sometimes used to ease painful health conditions and addiction.

“Music therapy is even being used in childbirth”, said Elyse Kochmanski, a board certified music therapist and owner of Buffalo Niagara Music Therapy Services in the Town of Tonawanda. Kochmanski focuses most of her practice helping children with special needs, especially those who fall on the autism spectrum. Music therapy helps her young clients work on social skills and speech communication to meet goals on their Individualized Education Plans as well as help improve fine motor skills, she said.

Music brings the community together and acts as a bonding agent. It breaks down barriers between patients and health professionals. Music can heal at home and in the hospital. Trials have suggested it can reduce anxiety and speed recovery. Volunteers are finding that it makes them feel better too.

Try listening to some music during times of stress. It can help alleviate your condition and make you feel a whole lot better.

Lou Lombardo is a New York State Licensed Massage Therapist, nationally certified and certified in orthopedic massage. He is an approved provider for continuing education courses through the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. For information, contact him at (585) 734-2200 or at lombardolm@aol.com.


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