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4 Ways to Use Music as Medicine

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4 Ways to Use Music as Medicine

Human beings are governed by rhythms. From our pulsing heartbeat, to the cadence of our speech patterns, to when we fall asleep and wake up—countless rhythms drive our existence.

Perhaps this is why we are so mesmerized by music.

“From lullabies to funeral songs, music is a part of our lives from the moment we enter the world, until the moment we leave it,” says Diane Snyder-Cowan, director of the Elisabeth Prentiss Bereavement Center for Hospice of the Western Reserve.

She describes a phenomenon called, “entrainment,” whereby people’s biological rhythms become synchronized with the music they’re listening to.

Entrainment exerts such a powerful force that simply listening to and focusing on soothing music can actually help a person enter a more relaxed state of physical and mental functioning. Once people enter this state, they’re better able to physically and mentally process things—from medications to emotions.

A professional music therapist, Snyder-Cowan is part of a specially-trained group of care providers who use melodies to achieve a particular treatment goal. “Music therapy is all about the intentional use of music to bring about a particular change; whether that change is therapeutic, emotional or spiritual,” she says.

Melodies may be better than meds

Music therapists work in a variety of different settings, from hospitals to halfway houses.

In some cases, music may even be more powerful than more traditional medical interventions, such as prescriptions and physical therapy.

Here are a few studies that demonstrate how Mozart may trump medicine:

Singing helps the stroke-stricken to speak sooner: A study conducted on a group of Finnish stroke sufferers found that listening to their favorite tunes while recovering helped them regain their ability to recognize words and communicate. When compared to stroke sufferers who listened to audiobooks or nothing at all, those that listened to music for a few hours a day experienced a much faster recovery of their verbal skills. The music listeners were also less likely to be depressed and confused, two common post-stroke side effects.

Pulsing pitches set pace for people with Parkinson’s: Numerous studies have indicated that music therapy can allow people with Parkinson’s to regain some of their overall functioning. In certain cases, music may even prove more effective at helping a Parkinson’s sufferer move better than traditional physical therapy techniques, according to an Italian study published in, “Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine.” Music therapy also upped the quality of life and overall feelings of happiness reported by those dealing with the disease.

Classical compositions have calming cardiovascular effects: German researchers discovered that people recovering from open-heart surgery had lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, after listening to classical music. Relaxing refrains also helped patients calm down pre-surgery. In some cases, listening to music before an operation was more effective in getting a person to relax than commonly-prescribed anti-anxiety medications.

Melodic intervention to manage grief

Music therapists also work with hospice care providers to assist a dying person and his family as they go through the grieving process.

Depending on the unique needs and wishes of the ailing individual and her family, a music therapist can perform services, such as helping to create a compilation CD of songs that have special meaning to the dying person to give as a legacy gift, composing a song about the person’s life, and selecting and playing particular melodies meant to ease their emotional and physical pain as they transition out of this life.

Keep reading to learn how you can use music to help a sick family loved one…

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Healing Harmonies: Music as Medicine for Seniors and Caregivers originally appeared on AgingCare.com.

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Read more: Alternative Therapies, General Health, Health, Natural Remedies, , , ,

By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor

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129 comments

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1:48AM PST on Jan 29, 2014

I absolutely feel delighted once I realize articles appropriate to my work and my subject.
ultra music festival Croatia

3:52PM PDT on Apr 24, 2013

Rhythm.

3:48PM PDT on Apr 24, 2013

Music sets your inner heart, it is the rythym of ones life

5:47AM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

I play music while I work, whether it be a cd, the music on my phone or the small radio I keep by my desk. I find I focus better with a little music as my office is very quiet. I work in an art gallery with historic paintings of dead people. I guess the music keeps the paintings from talking to me, 'cause that's when it's time to go.
My dad played the banjo and he was depressed nearer the end of his life. He was on anti-depressants. The depression seemed to come on when his hands got too weak to play (he had a form of muscular dystrophy that my sister, her kids and myself also have). I have his banjo in my living room, restrung and everything. He made us promise to never sell it. Maybe someday I'll take lessons and make that beautiful instrument sing again!

2:31PM PDT on Apr 1, 2013

Music helps our minds expand by giving us new neural connections. It enlivens our souls and wakes us to the refreshing beauty of life. As a meditative musician, I am so excited that more and more people are starting to understand the healing power of music.

5:17AM PDT on Mar 27, 2013

Music expresses what words cannot. Somewhere in the man, women, or child -- the kind of music that a person needs -- to feel better/to get better-- comes to that person -- and something healing happens. Catharsis or something thing like that. Other times music helps set the pace of the day or the atmosphere of the spirit and/or soul and/or body. Other times music is only tuned out and/or in the back ground.
(Spelling and/or typos corrected --some.)

5:13AM PDT on Mar 27, 2013

Music expresses what words cannot. Somewhere in the man, women, or child -- the kind of music that a person needs -- to feel better/to get better-- comes to that person -- and something healing happens. Catharsis or somtime thing like that. Other times music helps set the pace of the day or the atmoshere of the spirit and soul. Other times music is only tuned out and/or in the bakc ground.

9:40PM PDT on Mar 26, 2013

I love the music of this article! Thanks!

11:15PM PDT on Mar 25, 2013

Music is a great way to get through the day and face troubles. This article has a gentle tone (any genre, just use the music that is preferred, and take out any instrument you have and play what you can)

2:55PM PDT on Mar 24, 2013

It's good to see someone writing about music and its many benefits...thanks!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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