The Healing Power of Music

Tuesday, August 06, 2013 11:24 AM comments (0)

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?


Benefits of Massage Therapy for Cancer Patients

Friday, July 19, 2013 11:00 AM comments (0)

massage therapyMany think of a massage as a luxury, something you treat yourself to for stress relief after a particularly busy week at work or as a method of relief for the occasional shoulder twinge after a workout at the gym. And a massage can do exactly that but it can also be used for so much more.

Studies have shown that massage therapy can be beneficial for cancer patients both during and following treatment. Massage therapy can counteract many of the negative physical and emotional symptoms of cancer and side effects of cancer treatment for patients. More and more cancer patients are interested in finding ways to enhance their conventional treatment with complementary therapy options, including massage therapy.  

Charlotte Walker, Massage Therapist in NorthShore’s Department of Integrative Medicine, shares some of the potential benefits of massage therapy as a complementary treatment for cancer patients:

  • Reduces pain and relieves stress. Massage promotes relaxation and boosts the body’s production of endorphins, which can help relieve stress, reduce pain levels and swelling, and loosen aching, tense muscles.
  • Improves mood and quality of life. Increased anxiety and potential depression after a cancer diagnosis and during cancer treatment are not unusual for patients. Regular massage can reduce anxiety and help create a prolonged sense of well-being, improving a patient’s overall mood. Massage gives patients the time to breathe and relax, which can be the key to feeling your best during a difficult time.
  • Improves sleep patterns. Less pain and stress during the day means less pain and stress at night, which can help cancer patients sleep better and more soundly. 
  • Adds positive touch. Cancer treatments can be lifesaving but they are not always pleasant. The gentle, caring touch of massage therapy adds a positive touch in the midst of what might feel like the poking and prodding of treatment.

Join us on July 25th at 11 a.m. for our next online medical chat. Charlotte Walker will answer all questions related to massage therapy and pain management. Submit questions here: chat.


Pain Management – Methods to Help Reduce Pain

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 11:35 AM comments (0)

Reduce-PainDo you know the feeling of having pain and not being able to do much of anything to reduce or minimize it? Managing chronic pain can be difficult and frustrating, especially when over-the-counter medication just doesn’t seem to relieve symptoms.

James Grober, MD, Rheumatologist, suggests some methods for helping to reduce pain:

  • Exercise – Make an effort to get active and move around more. The endorphins your body produces during a workout can act as pain relievers.   Stretching properly can eliminate muscle and tendon tightness as causes of pain.  In addition, exercise may help reduce your risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and more.
  • Healthy Diet – Eat healthy and choose smart food options. Healthy eating, especially a low-fat diet, encourages improved digestion, circulation and weight control.
  • Sleep – Get a good night’s rest. This can help restore your energy and body functions. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
  • Relaxation –Reduce the stress in your life and take time to relax (whether through meditation or scheduling time to unwind). We all get stressed out and lives get hectic, but tension, soreness and tightness may be reduced through relaxation techniques.
  • Alternative medicine – Look into trying additional therapy options, such as massage and acupuncture.

Chronic pain often cannot be cured, but when managed properly its effects on your body and lifestyle can be minimized. As with any change in your routine, please consult with your physician if pain worsens or persists.

What pain management techniques work best for you?

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