Words by Corina Tan
Listening to music can be more than just a pleasant pass time. As you hum a favorite oldie, or get jiggy to the latest tunes, you may also be benefiting from music therapeutically. Scientific evidence has shown that music can have a profound impact on people in ways that we would not have thought of before. Medical professionals everywhere increasingly recognize the power of music to treat mental, physical and emotional illnesses.
Music therapy is an established form of therapy that has three areas of focus which are cognition, speech and motor skills. It helps individuals address emotional and social needs too. Those who become certified music therapists are accomplished musicians who have deep knowledge of how music can evoke emotional responses to relax or stimulate people, or help them heal. They combine this knowledge with a wide variety of musical styles to find the specific kind that can get you through a challenging physical rehab session or guide you into a calm and meditative state.
As music makes its way into the medical world, studies show significant positive results in a variety of cases. Stroke patients are experiencing great recovery of motor and cognitive function, patients of dementia show reduced symptoms of depression, while patients undergoing surgery feel less pain and sometimes even heal faster. Patients suffering from Parkinson’s and other mobility issues benefit greatly from training using a musical rhythm as they are able to increase their gait and decrease pausing when attempting movements. In cases of a stroke or brain injury, speech impairment is significantly restored and improved. Several targeted treatments for asthma, autism, and anxiety have also shown encouraging results in helping individuals manage their health. People who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) spend time playing and listening to music, as well as writing songs to ease their symptoms. Music is also a great tool to use for memory retention as it uses multiple channels of the brain at once, helping the brain to retain information for a long period of time.
For the general population, music helps reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure as well as cortisol which is the body’s natural stress hormone that can sometimes go into overdrive. A reduction in cortisol increases the ability to relax, eases stress and improves moods. Other benefits of music include providing a boost of energy when you need it, improves sleep, improves mental agility and also calms road rage.