Not only does music help one relax, it is said to activate certain parts of your brain which are otherwise not in use. Using this very phenomenon, researchers have come with an alternate form of healing known as music therapy. It basically involves using music in medicine to help patients deal with pain, depression and other psychological factors. It is said that music promotes recovery. Music is considered to be an outlet for emotions and music therapy is very popular in the United States. This is also catching up in India wherein institutes like Sur Sanjeevan Music Therapy Trust in Mumbai spreading the benefits of music therapy widely.
According to the American Music Therapy Association, “Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”
Music has often been used as a form of therapy for emotional or psychological issues. Using it to treat physical ailments is a new phenomenon catching up in the world now as an alternative form of treatment. Music therapy uses songs, instrumental music, frequencies, rhythm and even vibrations to aid the healing process. A number of new studies are coming out enlisting the correlation of music and mental and physical health. According to a study in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, April, 2013, it was found that music helps in improving the immune system functions and reduces stress as well. It has also been proven to reduce anxiety better than prescription medicines as it reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol and hence music is also associated with relaxation.
Music is basically a form of sound and sound is a form of vibration. A team of researchers at the University of Toronto are trying to forge ways as to how vibrations can be used to ease the symptoms of Parkinsons’s disease and even depression. Known as vibro-acoustic therapy, vibrations are absorbed by the body via a low frequency sound while the patient is made to lie on a bed or a mat or made to sit on a chair where the frequencies can be heard and felt as well. It is much like sitting on a speaker or home theatre system. A similar study at the Wilfrid Laurier University, in Waterloo, Ontario, proved that using vibro-acoustic therapy on patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease did in fact improve their symptoms like reduction in stiffness and tremors and an improvement in walking speed. There is further ongoing research in this field by the University of Toronto’s Music and Health Research Collaboratory, which has scientists from across the globe studying music’s effects on health.
India too is not far behind where medical practitioners and musicians are waking up to the benefits of music therapy. There have been proven cases of the reduction of arthritic pain by listening to the Marudh Raga even though long term relief or a complete cure is unheard of. The Marudh Raga CD is the work of Shashank Katti, an AIR (All India Radio) artiste, sitar player as well as an electrical engineer. According to him, music has an inherent influence in aiding recovery from an injury or disease. Music therapy releases various neurohormones, and is said to have a meditative effect.
In Mumbai, the Sur Sanjeevan Music Therapy Trust not only helps treat people suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, etc. but also teaches music therapy to people further wanting to help patients through music therapy. They have designed several CD’s for various conditions using different ragas based on their energy levels. Each CD is for a specific condition like the Paranshaya for asthma patients and the Madhuparna raga for patients with diabetes. Indian classical music is predominantly used by Sur Sanjeevan in its music therapy sessions.
The type of music used in music therapy is also key to addressing issues relating to each medical problem. Fortis Hospitals in the National Capital Region (NCR) also run music based therapy programmes and psychologists believe that the type of music to be used depends on the expected reaction from the patient. Listening to fast-paced music will not calm down a patient nor will listening to mellow sounds encourage movement. A study in the Deutsches Ärzteblatt International journal states that listening to soothing classical music by Mozart will be more effective in lowering one’s blood pressure and heart rate than the new age pop music by say, Abba.
It is not necessarily implied that listening to Indian or Western classical music has a more significant impact on a patient’s condition. It is said to be dependent on the person’s choice, the condition he is undergoing treatment for, and his preference and personality. People may respond more to a Taylor Swift song or a classical raga depending on their cultural connect. Instrumental music is also widely used in music therapy sessions. Some institutes use music played on the sitar to improve the patient’s mood whereas flute music is often used to help patients relax.
Though music therapy is gaining momentum in popular culture now, history tells us that it’s seeds have been there since ancient times. In ancient Egypt, chants were often used during the healing process. It is also said that Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato believed that music could help people overcome emotional difficulties.
Listening to music can evoke emotions and also create a sense of social belonging. Music is said to affect the nervous system and releases neuro chemicals which affect both mind and body. It is also said to strengthen the immune system, treat people for blood pressure issues, stress, autism and other lifestyle caused issues. Music and its effect on the brain is said to be connected and intertwined. The brain responds to music in very specific ways and is also said to help in treating pain and reducing stress and even help in restoring speech. It also helps in addressing issues related to PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
An important point to be kept in mind while practicing music therapy is that it can aid healing along with the traditional methods of medical science and cannot be completely used as a replacement of traditional practices. A healthy diet, ample physical activity, medicines and music therapy together can lead to holistic and faster healing.
Music is one of the most beautiful creative art forms and is one of the most surreal ways to express oneself. It is not only used as an art or expressive form but has multiple nuances attached to it. Music has many facets and music therapy is one of them. Music can aid the healing process and is a new age way to help one recover faster. Music is indeed therapeutic and science is using this wondrous medium in the medical world. More and more institutes are opening up to the possibility of music therapy as an alternative form of healing and making it more widely and easily accessible is needed today. This is just the beginning and as more and more studies are being done across the world, by music connoisseurs, researchers and scientists alike, music therapy is sure to gain more momentum and be used even more widely.