Healing with music

Published On: May 09 2013 09:30:33 PM EDT   Updated On: May 10 2013 06:20:00 AM EDT

Whether it’s pop, hip-hop, country, or classical, we all have favorite songs that make us move or simply move us. But could music help as we battle different diseases and conditions?

Danielle Decosmo’s stage is a hospital room.

“It just uplifts you,” said Virginia, who is a cancer patient.

The hospital volunteer plays for cancer patients like Virginia.

“It does a lot towards helping you get the right attitude to heal, instead of feeling down and sorry for yourself,” said Virginia's husband David.

“I do see a change often," said Decosmo. "I definitely think music helps people heal.”

Board Certified Music Therapist Elizabeth Stegemoller knows it does.

“Music stimulates multiple areas of the brain,” she said.

The neuroscience PhD specializes in Parkinson's and says walking in time with music can help patients overcome walking difficulties.

“If you have a person with a motor disorder, you can use music to help facilitate movement,” explained Stegemoller.

She tells us after singing training, Parkinson's patients’ speech can improve too.

A program at Saint Louis University is testing if music improves cancer treatment by decreasing patients' stress. Research at the University of Kentucky found it did reduce surgery patients’ pain and recovery time. And it’s been shown to increase Alzheimer's patients’ cognitive function. Stegemoller says, more research is needed to find out what music changes in the brain.

“There’s a lot of theories out there as to why it’s working, so now those theories need to be tested,” Stegemoller said.

In the meantime, music seems to be making Virginia's treatment a little more bearable.

“You just feel good,” Virginia said.

Music programs for vets with P.T.S.D. are showing promise. A study funded by the VA found vets given six weeks of guitar lessons reported a 21 percent reduction in overall symptoms and a 37 percent increase in health related quality of life.

Learn more about music therapy or find a music therapist.


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