The Healing Power of Music
You may enjoy music for pleasure, but it’s used in medicine as therapy, too. And you don’t need musical ability to reap its rewards.
Have you ever played a soft melody to help you relax, or a lively tune to lift a gloomy mood or help you exercise?
If so, than you already have a good understanding of the power of music.
“Music therapy” has been used in medicine for thousands of years. From the ancient Greeks to Native Americans, many cultures have used music for its healing effect on the mind and body. The formal practice of music therapy actually began during World War II. It was used in veteran’s hospitals to help treat soldiers suffering from shell shock.
What is music therapy?
Music therapy uses music in different ways to promote healing and improve quality of life. It can involve playing a musical instrument, listening to music, writing songs and/or talking about lyrics.
Music therapists are usually members of a health care team. They have special training on how to tailor sessions for individuals and groups based on their needs and tastes. Using a variety of methods, they address the physical, emotional, social and/or cognitive challenges of their clients.
Benefits of music therapy
Anyone can benefit from music therapy, from infants to the elderly. And the good news is that you don’t need to have any musical ability to reap its rewards.
It is not clear exactly how music benefits the body. But studies have shown that music can affect brain waves, brain circulation and stress hormones.
Though there are no claims that it can cure any disease, research has shown that music therapy can be used to:
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Help people sleep better
- Alleviate pain
- Express feelings
- Enhance memory
- Improve communication
- Promote physical rehabilitation
Various studies have also shown that music therapy can have a positive effect on people with the following conditions:
Chronic disease. Music therapy can lower heart rate and blood pressure. It can also ease stress, one of the major risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.
Autism. Music can be a creative outlet for those with autism. It may help improve concentration and relieve anxiety and frustration. It can also encourage interaction and improve conversational skills.
Parkinson’s. Music therapy may help with the depression, anxiety and even social isolation of Parkinson’s patients. Music (including drumming, dance and movement groups) can be an outlet for self-expression and a closer connection to others.
Pain. With cancer or any chronic illness, music therapy (along with anesthesia or pain medication) can help ease pain.
Depression and mental illness. Music has been shown to elevate mood and counteract depression. It can also help patients explore personal feelings and make positive changes in behavior.
Alzheimer’s disease. Music has been shown to assist in memory and language skills. It can also help to curtail disturbed or aggressive behavior, common with this disease. Even people in the late stages of dementia can often respond to and interact with music.
Music therapy is widely practiced in places such as hospitals, cancer centers, hospices, psychiatric facilities, substance abuse clinics, nursing homes and schools. It can be used anywhere people can benefit from its soothing or motivating effects.
There are thousands of professional music therapists working in health care settings in the U.S. today. Certain music therapy services may be covered by some health insurances.