Physical Rehabilitation with Music Therapy

people playing ukuleleWe all know how music makes us groove, how it makes us sway to its rhythm and fill us with a good kind of energy. Yet, that is not the only way music affects us. Music influences the way we move, even in times when moving is a struggle.

Music Therapy has been used as an intervention in physical rehabilitation, and time and again, it has proved its feasibility and efficacy in the recovery of patients dealing with physical maladies.

A recent study conducted by the University of Edinburgh concluded that “Using musical cues to learn a physical task significantly develops an important part of the brain.”
Another study conducted by the Harvard Medical School, discovered that movement to music improves the mobility of patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Music Therapy and motor rehabilitation go way back and when Music Therapists co-treat with other rehabilitation disciplines, the combination of modalities make a powerful duo when harnessed together.
Over the past few years, Music Therapy has become one of the core methods of therapy, co-treating with Physical Therapists and – combined with a suitable treatment from a multi-disciplinary care team – it has shown significant results.
Let’s dig deeper into the phenomenon and learn how music therapy helps with physical rehabilitation:

Music Motivates Patients, Leading to More Effective Sessions

More than one Physical Therapist has felt the noticeable effect of music during the therapy sessions.
When the Music Therapist provides live music specifically targeted to facilitate the movement exercises, therapy sessions tend to be more energetic and lively as patients feel more relaxed and comfortable with their therapists. They connect with the environment in the room which in turn helps them conduct their exercises with more motivation.
Without music, therapy feels like a chore, as if going through the motions. With no motivation and drive behind the exercises, the results are delayed and lacking.

Music Affects Movement

The Robert F. Unkefer Academy for Neurologic Music Therapy lists an extensive number of research studies that have time-and-again shown that music affects movement in a variety of clinical populations.
A 2012 Meta-Analysis of 168 research studies investigating the effects of Music Therapy in walking rehabilitation of Parkinson’s patients, the extensive data significantly suggests that Music Therapy has positive impacts on walking patterns in Parkinson’s patients.

When clinicians and researchers at the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy at NYU Steinhardt and the Rusk Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU Langone used Music Therapy for stroke survivors, they discovered that music elicits spontaneous movement.

After a 45-minute session with music intervention, that lasted six weeks, the results were prominent and satisfactory.

The specialists noted reduced impairments in the patients’ limb movements and improvement in their sensory impairments. All in all, an overall health improvement was noted in the stroke patients.

Music Builds Rapport – It Connects People

It’s not easy for every patient to build a relationship with their therapist, yet a relationship is indeed needed for physical rehabilitation to be successful.
This is where music comes in. Music intervenes in many ways to help build rapport between the therapist and the patient. Being actively engaged in music with a Music Therapist leading with melodies, harmonies, and rhythm, creates a positive therapeutic environment by decreasing stress, improving mood, and providing an inviting topic of conversation for getting to know one another.
Building trust with patients is extremely important, especially when the patient is in need of long-term physical rehabilitation. While physical therapy seems to just involve the body, let’s not forget that our mood and emotions play a very significant role in the recovery process.

It is the emotional connection that provides us the will, passion and hopes to recover, while the brain helps our body learn, and relearn the movements.
This is why Music Therapy has been successful at helping patients physically, psychologically, and socially.

Music is Diverse

No two individuals are alike and neither are their musical preferences. Thankfully, music is diverse, and using it to boost and enhance physical rehabilitation is accessible and effective.

Not just any music will be effective in physical rehabilitation but one that the patient prefers and one that specifically targets the movement by providing auditory cues to engage the brain in a more efficient way of doing the exercises. The music a patient favors can range from a single note to music with dynamic sounds. Music Therapists can quickly assess the needs of a patient and provide the appropriate musical facilitation to engage the patient and aid their recovery.
Physical Rehabilitation that uses up-to-date methods often employs a collaborative effort amongst Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Pathologists, and Music Therapists.

Music Keeps Patients Engaged for a Long Time

Patients with a brain injury require a significant amount of therapy in order to recover. This means, some exercises are repeated every day, which can get real boring real quick.

Music, on the other hand, adds an element of fun in therapy sessions, in addition to being used as a therapy tool. It gives something to look forward to every day and keep things changing. Every day can be a day with new music and provide the patients with additional motivation.

When Music Therapist and Physical Therapists conduct joint sessions, they end up finding novel ideas for the exercises.

Music Therapy Helps Patients Cope

When someone is in need of physical rehabilitation, it means they have gone through something massive. It could be an accident, a stroke, and/or an inflicted injury. Whatever the reasons behind physical impairments are, they leave trauma behind.

Most patients suddenly find themselves surrounded by hospitals, doctors, medications, tests, and therapies, all the while still trying to cope with what happened.

When the brain is refusing to move on with the events, the body can hardly make any progress. Music affects the brain and its connection with emotions, feelings, and memories. Patients do not leave these feelings behind during physical rehabilitation, but it comes with them. To process these feelings is part of physical therapy and this is one of the many ways a Music Therapy intervention helps.
The role of Music Therapy in physical rehabilitation is part of various ongoing studies. Yet, the results so far have been nothing but positive.

The collaboration of the two niches has benefitted many patients as well as the therapists in helping their patients recover. People with compromised physical abilities need a lot of motivation, inspiration and drive to recover and cope and music provides it all.