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The Benefits of Music Therapy for MS Patients

February 28, 2017

Music therapy has long been known for its healing powers — its use dates back to WWI, where it was used to help with the physical and emotional healing of the wounded. Music can also be of help to those of us with multiple sclerosis.

An article from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, titled “Music Therapy in Multiple Sclerosis” and written by Jenny Asparro who is studying music and neuroscience at St. Olaf College, recognizes that there are many benefits with music therapy. Beyond the obvious calming affects, it can also encourage body movements to a rhythmic beat, and can add many rewards to our lives.

Body movements that we use during the day are essential to keeping us active and independent. Adding repeated movements together with a melodic sound can improve coordination and concentration. Doing these repetitive actions can also affect endurance, and help create a more level walking gait.

Music activates movement, so that the thinking process is bypassed. It is a free action which eliminates overwhelming cognitive upheaval. I found this particular excerpt from Asparro’s article reassuring, “It is almost impossible to fully lose the ability to process music because, unlike speech, it involves so many areas of the brain.”

Another benefit of music is improved memory, which would be incredibly helpful to those of us experiencing memory loss. Even though we find it difficult to remember daily tasks, we still retain the ability to be taught and perform physical activities, such as playing musical instruments. These activities help to improve cognitive abilities.

Anxiety, depression and stress also can receive high benefits from listening to or performing music. It can help you to relax the mind and to deal with emotions you may have concerning your illness or life in general. Also beneficial are music therapy group sessions, since music activates emotions and social connections in the brain.

Verbal communication is another function that may benefit from music therapy. Words that are hard to verbalize can easily be communicated when put to music. According to Asparro, “Singing can also help with the breath support, pronunciation, and timing needed for speech.”

From my time working as an activity director, I have seen the incredible benefits that music therapy has on patients with disabilities. I have witnessed elderly dementia patients still able to kick and hit a ball to music in an exercise class. I have also seen music’s calming effect on children. Music benefits all ages, it is the universal language. Not only does it connect us to others, it also increases the healing power of our bodies — so relax and enjoy the music!

Via MS News Today