There are many ways to classify pain. The most common way is to relate pain to its source or to associate it with a diagnosis. Pain may also be categorized according to its intensity and/or duration. Typically, acute pain can be mild or severe and may last a moment, weeks, or months. Acute pain is generally consider to last less than six months, while chronic pain, in contrast, may be considered a disease state and is pain that outlasts the normal time of healing, if associated with a disease or injury. The therapy of chronic pain, including peripheral neuropathy treatments, must rely on a multidisciplinary approach and should involve more than one therapeutic modality.
Music therapy is a common and growing treatment remedy for people in pain. For acute episodes during a pain crisis and for lingering pain resulting from a chronic condition, music therapy is becoming a well-known analgesic for an increasingly pain-stricken population
What is Music Therapy?
Therapists use music by to promote healing and enhance quality of life for their patients. It may be used to encourage emotional expression, promote social interaction, relieve symptoms, and for other purposes.
Music has been used in medicine for thousands of years. Ancient Greek philosophers believed that music could heal both the body and the soul. Native Americans have used singing and chanting as part of their healing rituals for eras. The more formal approach to music therapy began in World War II, when U.S. Veterans Administration hospitals began to use music to help treat soldiers suffering from shell shock.
Scientific studies have shown the value of music therapy on the body, mind, and spirit of children and adults. A number of clinical trials have shown the benefit of music therapy for short-term pain, including pain from cancer. Some studies have suggested that music may help decrease the overall intensity of the patient’s experience of pain when used with pain-relieving drugs. Music therapy can also result in a decreased need for pain medicine in some patients, although studies on this topic have shown mixed results.
Other clinical trials have revealed a reduction in heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, insomnia, depression, and anxiety with music therapy. No one knows all the ways music can benefit the body, but studies have shown that music can affect brain waves, brain circulation, and stress hormones. These effects are usually seen during and shortly after the therapy.
What do Music Therapists Do?
Music therapy is an established health profession that uses music and the therapeutic relationship to address physical, psychological, cognitive and/or social functioning for patients of all ages and disabilities. This treatment is a powerful and physically noninvasive medium and unique outcomes are possible when interventions are directed to reduce pain, anxiety, and depression. These outcomes appear to be mediated through the individual’s emotional, cognitive, and interpersonal responsiveness to the music and/or the supportive music therapy relationship. Music therapists offer services in hospitals, clinics, physical rehabilitation and outpatient programs, senior centers, among others.
Music therapy utilized in the treatment and management of pain conforms with the expectations and requirements inherent in the medical model of treatment. Patient objectives are specific and relevant to medical diagnosis, course of treatment, and discharge timeline. Once goals and objectives are established, music therapists use music activities, both instrumental and vocal, designed to facilitate changes that are non-musical in nature. Through a planned and systematic use of music and music strategies, the music therapist provides opportunities for:
- Anxiety and stress reduction
- Nonpharmacological management of pain and discomfort
- Positive changes in mood and emotional states
- Active and positive patient participation in treatment
Music therapy is a safe, benign, and potentially effective integrative treatment that is indicated for many different kinds of pain and painful circumstances.
How Can You Find a Music Therapist or Get More Information?
American Music Therapy Association
8455 Colesville Road, Suite 1000
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone: (301) 589-3300
Source: ACAP – Joanne Loewy, DA, LCAT, MT_BC, Co-Editor in Chief of the Journal Music and Medicine.