What is it?
Music is practiced throughout all human cultures around the globe. It has been used to influence physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being to improve quality of life. Music therapy is the use of music to treat a condition, reduce symptoms, or prevent the onset of a disease or injury. Music therapy can include performing, improvising, or listening to music to improve health. Music therapy involves establishing a relationship between a music therapist and a patient.
Music therapy is most commonly used to alleviate pain and anxiety. People also use music therapy for autism, stroke recovery, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support many of these uses.
Possibly Effective for …
- Anxiety. Music therapy and listening to music seems to reduce anxiety in many different types of people. Music might reduce the need for anti-anxiety drugs and reduce anxiety symptoms such as increased heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure.
- Autism. Music therapy might improve social skills and communication in people with autism. Active music therapy such as drumming and singing seems to be more beneficial than listening to music.
- Pain in people with cancer. Music therapy seems to modestly reduce chronic cancer-related pain.
- Depression. Music therapy seems to improve depression in older people. Additional early research shows that music might reduce depression symptoms and increase calmness in depressed women.
- High blood pressure. Music therapy seems to reduce blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.
- Difficulty sleeping (insomnia). Listening to music seems to improve sleep in people with difficulty sleeping. Music seems to improve sleep both in older people and in children.
- Chronic pain. Music therapy seems to help reduce chronic pain due to chronic diseases
- Parkinson disease. Some research shows that adding music during movement training improves balance and symptoms better than movement training alone. Music therapy might also improve coordination. But it doesn’t seem to help with speech problems.
- Pain after surgery. Most research shows that music therapy reduces pain and anxiety after surgery and during recovery after surgery. But music therapy doesn’t seem to help reduce pain immediately after waking up from surgery.
- Anxiety before surgery. Most evidence shows that music therapy reduces anxiety before surgery and medical procedures. But not all research agrees.
- Schizophrenia. Some research shows that music therapy improves symptoms and social functioning in people with schizophrenia. Music therapy might also help people with both schizophrenia and psychosis.
- Stroke. Some research shows that music therapy improves walking, quality of life, and communication in people who have had a stroke. But music therapy might no longer benefit people that had a stroke more than 10 months ago.
Insufficient Evidence to Make a Determination for …
- Decline in memory and thinking skills that occurs normally with age. Early research shows that music therapy might not improve memory and thinking in healthy older adults.
- Asthma. Early research shows that playing tunes on a recorder, slide whistle, or melodica at home along with music therapy improves breathing in children with asthma.
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Early research shows that music therapy does not reduce impulsive feelings in children with ADHD.
- Burns. Some early research shows that music therapy might help to reduce pain in children and adults with severe burns. But not all research agrees.
- Cancer. Some research suggests that adding music therapy to standard care might improve quality of life, anxiety, and depression in people with cancer.
- Heart disease. Early research shows that music therapy might reduce stress markers and health complications in people who are in the hospital for a heart attack or heart procedure.
- Nausea and vomiting caused by cancer drug treatment. Early research shows that music therapy along with anti-nausea medications might work better than anti-nausea medications alone to improve symptoms in people with this condition.
- Diseases, such as Alzheimer disease, that interfere with thinking (dementia). Music therapy seems to improve quality of life, emotional wellbeing, and depression in people with dementia. However, it’s not clear if music therapy improves thinking, memory, or aggression in these people.
- Infant development. Early research suggests that singing a lullaby to a baby improves weight gain in premature infants.
- Labor pain. Early research shows that using music therapy during labor seems to reduce pain.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS). Early research suggests that music therapy might not improve quality of life or depression in people with MS.
- Osteoarthritis. Early research shows that listening to relaxation music might reduce pain in people with osteoarthritis.
- Acute pain. Early research shows that music therapy might reduce pain in people that recently had surgery for leg fractures. However, adding music as a distraction method to treatment with ice, elevation, and immobilization does not seem to further reduce pain in people with minor musculoskeletal injuries.
- Depression after childbirth (postpartum depression). Early research shows that listening to music might reduce depression after childbirth.
- Recovery after surgery. Early research shows that listening to music might reduce confusion in the elderly after surgery.
- Quality of life. Adding music therapy to end-of-life care might improve quality of life, pain, and mood.
- Feelings of well-being. Early research shows that music therapy might reduce grief in children with behavior problems when compared to meeting with a social worker. But not all research agrees.
- Fatigue caused by radiation therapy. Early research shows that music therapy seems to reduce fatigue in women receiving radiation therapy for cancer.
- Ringing in the ears.
- Cystic fibrosis.
- Mental performance.
- Bipolar disorder.
- A lung condition called chronic pulmonary obstructive disease (COPD).
- Shortness of breath.
- Eating disorders.
- High blood pressure.
- Motion sickness.
- Muscle cramps.
- Itchy skin (neurodermatitis).
- Prevention of pregnancy complications.
- Scaly and itchy skin (psoriasis).
- Spinal cord injury.
- Muscle strength.
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of music therapy for these uses.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn’t enough reliable information to know if music therapy is safe when pregnant or breast-feeding. However, there’s no reason to suspect safety concerns when used appropriately.
Infants and children: Music therapy is POSSIBLY SAFE in infants and children. High levels of noise or music might stunt the growth of newborn infants. Infants should also not be overstimulated with music. Music interventions in infants should usually not last any longer than 30 minutes.
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