Music Therapy is the Best Medicine

Music therapy is an innovative treatment for many conditions

As human beings, we are almost destined to become diagnosed with at least one health condition within our lives. When faced with a concerning diagnosis, the first question normally asked is “Can it be treated or cured?.” This question could go one of two ways.

With many advancements in healthcare, most health conditions can be treated to make day-to-day life more manageable. Recently, music therapy has been on the rise and is becoming a more popular treatment for certain illnesses. It is the use of music-based clinical interventions to achieve non-musical goals. Although this is not a cure, it is a form of treatment that has been proven to aid in certain health conditions time and time again.

Since people tend to have such a strong connection with music, it only makes sense that music therapy is a growing treatment that many enjoy. This blog will examine some common yet serious health conditions and how music therapy can bring positive outcomes.

Neurological Conditions

How Alzheimer’s and Aphasia Can Be Treated With Music Therapy

Alzheimer’s Disease

This condition is most commonly seen in adults over 60. Alzheimer’s is a serious memory loss condition which causes people to have unusual behavior, mood swings, irrational thoughts, and trouble performing daily tasks. It is much more serious than forgetting where you left your glasses, or what you had for breakfast. It is not unusual for Alzheimer’s patients to not recognize the people closest to them - like a significant other, children, or siblings.

Although this condition cannot be cured, it can become more manageable if treated with music therapy. People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are still able to interact with music late into the disease’s progression. Because of their ability to engage with music, this type of therapy is a common treatment. Music Therapy helps with communication, improving motor skills, orienting clients to their environment and helping to recall forgotten memories. Since Alzheimer patients tend to remember things from long ago, sometimes listening to music may jog their memory. Did you ever hear a song on the radio that reminded you of something special like your prom or wedding?

Photo of women with headphones on working with a music therapist.
John Abel, a music therapist working with a resident at A.G. Rhodes Health & Rehab in Atlanta to bring back memories. Photo courtesy of Music and Memory Organization.

Aphasia

Aphasia is a condition when an individual loses the ability to communicate. Loss of speech routinely occurs in dementia-related conditions, yet aphasia by itself is a speech disorder. If an individual is unable to communicate and a preexisting condition is not present it is usually related to a stroke or a traumatic brain injury. To understand why music therapy could help a patient with aphasia can be well explained by looking at the right and left side of the brain.

Generally speaking, the right side of the brain is more creative than the left. Although, the right side is creative, signing doesn’t originate from that side - it is wired somewhere else inside the brain. Music therapy engages both sides of the brain making them work together. Having the patient singing, then forming logical thoughts can help communicate how they are feeling. This can help the client to regain their voice and express their mind. Once the patient masters this, the melody could slowly be taken out allowing patients to express themselves through communication again.

Mental Health Conditions

How Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD Can Be Treated With Music Therapy

Depression

Clinical depression can affect anyone and is more serious than feeling sad from time to time. There is a wide range of symptoms and forms of depression. The symptoms range from feeling fatigued to having suicidal thoughts regularly. Depression is a very serious condition and can be treated when symptoms occur.

Since depression is a diagnosed mental illness, treatments are available. The most common treatments are talking to a licensed psychologist or medication. Yet music therapy is becoming more accepted because of its ability to improve mood and release emotions. Because of how successful music therapy has been, research is currently being done to find out if the outcomes from music therapy are more effective than the outcomes from traditional treatments.

Anxiety

Just like any other health condition, there is a wide spectrum of anxiety disorders and can affect all ages. Yet symptoms are not always visual. Most of the time people feel nervous, restless, or have a rapid heart-rate. If severe cases, panic attacks, sweating, and the inability to communicate can occur.

While traditional treatments for anxiety are similar to those for depression, music therapy is also becoming more prevalent. Individuals who receive music therapy to manage symptoms experience more expression of emotion, improved mood, and increased mental well being.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is one example of stress-related conditions. People who suffer from this condition tend to have frequent flashbacks and nightmares of traumatic experiences they have faced in the past. The most common individuals who develop PTSD are war veterans. Some individuals can have symptoms that can last for many years.

PTSD can be difficult to treat because bringing up the past can often trigger more intense emotions and fear. Since veterans make up a large portion of this population, there are several organization which are set up to help provide music therapy treatments. PTSD patients who received music therapy found improvement in self-esteem and endured fewer side effects.

Photo of John Mahoney. He is a Afghanistan War Veteran with PTSD. He is playing guitar.
John Mahoney is a Afghanistan war vetern who was diagnosed with PTSD. Mahoney felt blessed when he discovered music’s ability to heal. Photo courtesy of Montreal Gazette.

Medical Conditions

How Cancer, Heart Disease, and Pain Can Be Treated With Music Therapy

Cancer

There are many types of cancer. Depending on what part of the body is affect and how much the cancer has progressed, treatment can vary. Often, the first attempt toward treating the disease is surgery. If the surgery is unsuccessful or not all cancer cells were removed, chemotherapy and radiation are often tried next. These treatments tend to be long-term and can occur on a weekly or monthly basis. Treatments like this can be painful and take a toll on patients’ physical and emotional health.

The University of Texas’ MD Anderson Center believes that music therapy can be extremely beneficial for cancer patients when used with along side of traditional cancer treatments. Music therapy has been proven to help improve mood, reduce stress, and lessen pain. This helps patients to better communicate and cope with their emotions. The MD Anderson Center explains that music therapists also help patients relaxation techniques through both live and recorded music.


Photo of a graduate student, Betsy Hartman signing to a patient going through chemotherapy.
Graduate student, Betsy Hartman singing to patient, Michelle Gherardi. Photo courtesy of Seattle Pacific University.


Heart Related Diseases

Since using music therapy, researchers began to see a common side effect in patients - lower blood pressure. Many heart-related conditions tend to go hand in hand with blood pressure. Therefore, individuals who are diagnosed with heart conditions are a good candidate for music therapy. Patients’ blood pressure lowered and stress was reduced.

In addition to these positive results, Harvard Health and the Didge Project (which uses studies from Oxford University and The Cardiovascular Society of Great Britains) suggest that if a person listens to a song where the rhythm matches their body’s rhythm it can help keep their heart under control. Music Therapists are vital in help patients with heart diseases to find a song to match the rhythm of their heartbeat.

Pain Management

Ever wonder why laboring mothers create a playlist before giving birth? Or why music is played in hospital waiting rooms? Music therapy is often used in pain management because it helps lessen the chance of depression, gives people a better sense of control over their pain, therefore, reducing the amount of medication needed. Since pain is a rather general topic - it almost suggests that music therapy can be used to treat any type of illness.

These conditions mentioned are just a handful of health-related issues that have been treated with music therapy. Researchers are still exploring the abundance of benefits it provides in the medical field.

If you or a loved around has one of these conditions and would like to try music therapy, consider reaching out to Incadence. They can help you not only with a health condition you suffer from but also can help improve your overall mental and physical well-being.



Lydia Bernardo
Lydia enjoys playing piano and spending time outside.
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