LOS ANGELES, Dec 1 — Music therapy has been used for over 30 years to successfully ease the symptoms and suffering for patients receiving palliative care, improving the quality of life across all ages and a variety of illnesses. However, few high quality evidence-based studies have existed to support music therapy. A recent trial by a team of researchers from Heidelberg University aims to provide solid evidence on the practice’s impact.
To test the effects of music therapy the team of researchers looked at 84 participants in palliative care. They divided the participants into two groups: one group received music therapy, while the other group was a control group who instead of music therapy underwent a relaxation program. During the trial the group undergoing music therapy received two sessions of live music-based relaxation exercises, while the control group listened to verbal relaxation exercises.
Before and after the sessions participants were asked about their level of relaxation, acute pain, and general wellbeing. Levels of relaxation and general well-being were reported as being higher for the group that underwent music therapy than for the control group who only underwent relaxation therapy, with patients’ self reports also supported by heartbeat measurements. There was no difference between the music therapy group and control group with regards to a reduction in acute pain, however the music therapy group did report a significant reduction in fatigue compared to the control group. Looking at the results overall researchers concluded that music therapy is an effective treatment in promoting relaxation and increasing overall wellbeing in terminally ill patients undergoing palliative care.
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Music therapy is now a well-established practice, even with its own academic journal, the Journal of Music Therapy. It is still unknown exactly how music eases anxiety, however more research is now being done to provide evidence on its benefits in medical treatments. A review by Brunel University, published earlier this year in The Lancet, is the first study to research the power of music on those undergoing operations. Researchers looked at more than 7,000 patients in 70 clinical trials who listened to music before, after and during surgery. The results showed that music could have important health benefits, with researchers finding music to be a powerful analgesic that reduced the need for painkillers and reduced levels of anxiety, even showing its effectiveness when patients were under general anaesthetic and across all types of procedures.
Another study by Northwestern University, published in January this year in the journal Pediatric Surgery, is believed to be the first randomised evaluation of music therapy as a way to manage pain in children. The study found children listening to just 30 minutes of music by their favourite artist had reduced levels of pain after major surgery. — AFP Relaxnews pic