The Healing Power of Music

Tuesday, August 06, 2013 11:24 AM

music therapyMusic can improve mood, decrease pain and anxiety, and stimulate emotional expression. Music therapy has a long history but the first formal use of music therapy began in World War II, when hospitals used music to help soldiers suffering from “shell shock” or what would later be diagnosed as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Music therapy can and is being used by board certified music therapists to enhance conventional treatment for a variety of illnesses and disease processes – from anxiety, depression and stress to the management of pain and enhancement of functioning after degenerative neurologic disorders such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and Parkinson’s disease. 

Heather Hodorowski, MS, MT-BC, LPC, Music Therapy Coordinator at NorthShore, highlights some of the benefits music has on health and well-being:

  • It’s heart healthy. Research has shown that blood flows more easily when music is played. This increase in blood flow is similar to the increased blood flow caused by aerobic activity. Music can also reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, decrease cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and increase serotonin and endorphin levels in the blood. 
  • It elevates mood. Music can boost the brain’s production of the hormone dopamine. This increased dopamine production helps relieve feelings of anxiety and depression. Music is processed directly by the amygdala, which is the part of the brain involved in mood and emotions. 
  • It stimulates memories. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia but music therapy has been shown to relieve some of its symptoms. Music therapy can relax an agitated patient, improve the mood and open communication in a previously uncommunicative patient by stimulating a memory associated with a song.  
  • It manages pain. By reducing stress levels and providing a strong competing stimulus to the pain signals that enter the brain, music therapy can assist in pain management. 

Has music therapy benefited you or someone in your family?

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