In today’s society, you can listen to music from all around the world with the push of a button. We can choose to listen to music from bygone eras or from music that was just released that day. As music has continued to evolve and advance, so has our understanding of the connection between listening to music and its positive benefits on our bodies. A niche medical field that combines clinical therapy practices with music education has been formed to explore these acoustic-related phenomena. This niche field is called Music Therapy. According to The American Music Therapy Association, music therapy is a health profession that utilizes music to address the emotional, physical, social, and cognitive needs of a person through therapy. We’ve known for years that turning up our music if it feels right enhances our mood. However, music therapy has taken this idea a step further to study the totality of its health benefits. Here are some of the benefits that have already been discovered:
Music Therapy reduces Anxiety & the Physical Effects of Stress
There are wide variations in how each individual responds to different genres of music but, regardless of genre, music is great for managing anxiety and for stress relief. Music has a direct effect on the autonomic nervous system and improves mood for medical and surgical patients. Also, music therapy is a low-cost method that reduces acute, surgical, and chronic pain caused by stress (Kemper & Danhauer, 2005). The benefits even enhance when a patient is capable of playing an instrument. The auditory and tactile stimulation provide a state of mental relaxation that reduces stress (Babcock, 2017).
Music Therapy improves Pain Management
When you take pain medication, the medication binds to receptors in the brain to lower the sensation of pain. These drugs also cause the brain to release oxytocin to help achieve pain relief. Unfortunately, the side effects associated with pain medication (particularly addiction and the potential for drug abuse) outweigh the good these drugs may make you feel. In 2012, around 2.1 million were suffering from addiction to opioid pain relievers (Hillis, 2016). Music therapy might be the ideal alternative to pain medication as a satisfying source of pain management. While studying the impact of music therapy, researchers found that listening to music during bed rest after open heart surgery has some effects of relaxation by naturally releasing oxytocin to the body (Nilsson, 2009). Additional studies show that music also releases the neurotransmitter, dopamine, to the body. Dopamine is the central chemical in your brain that regulates how you experience pleasure (Hussein, 2016). The release of these two chemicals to the body and brain, respectively, should allow music therapy to effectively provide pain relief to patients.
Music Therapy improves Communication & Self-Expression
Music is used to help those that may have physical or mental handicaps express themselves. In children with autism, music therapy has a huge impact on developing their fundamental aspects of speech development. The improvements in their communication skills allows them to form and maintain relationships. Therefore, this type of therapy provides a basic and supportive method for children with delayed speech development (Groß, et al., 2010).
Music Therapy is the Future of Therapy
Music is one of those magical things that trigger a myriad of emotions through nostalgia, causing the brain to respond to that feeling of joy. Now, the influence of music is crossing over from being a purely enjoyable experience to a therapeutic practice that can enhance the treatment and overall experience of the patient. Music therapy is on the forefront of clinical therapy, being one of the most cost effective and useful approaches for patients. Music therapy can be used to decrease our dependence on prescription drugs and bring down the rate of addiction, manage stress-induced pain, and help children with autism develop communication skills and a means for self-expression. Safe to say, music therapy will continue to make people feel good for a very long time.
“American Music Therapy Association.” What Is Music Therapy | What Is Music Therapy? | American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), www.musictherapy.org/about/musictherapy/.
Babcock, Jillian. “This Colorado Hospital Uses Music Therapy to Help Treat Trauma, Restlessness & Adrenal Fatigue.” Dr. Axe, 2017, draxe.com/music-therapy-benefits/.
“Functions of Dopamine: What Is Dopamine and How Does It Affect You?” CogniFit's Blog, May 2017, blog.cognifit.com/functions-of-dopamine-serve-you/.
Groß, Wibke, et al. “Effects of Music Therapy in the Treatment of Children with Delayed Speech Development - Results of a Pilot Study.” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, BioMed Central, 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921108/.
Hillis, Krista. “5 Amazing Benefits Of Music Therapy.” The Alternative Daily, 2016, www.thealternativedaily.com/benefits-of-music-therapy/.
Kemper, K J, and S C Danhauer. “Music as Therapy.” Southern Medical Journal., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15813154.
Nilsson, U. “Soothing Music Can Increase Oxytocin Levels during Bed Rest after Open-Heart Surgery: a Randomised Control Trial.” Journal of Clinical Nursing., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19583647.