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Does Music Therapy in the ICU Work?

September 2, 2020

“Music can heal the wounds which medicine cannot touch.” That’s the thought of American physician, philosopher, and author Debasish Mridha.

Indeed, music therapy is a growing field. There are now certified music therapists who are accomplished musicians with an extensive knowledge of how music can help patients heal. Studies have supported a wide range of music therapy benefits that include changing brain waves and lowering heart rate and blood pressure. One area that has promise is music as a therapy for those who have traumatic brain injuries.

How Common are Traumatic Brain Injuries?

Statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that more than 1.7 million people suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBI) every year. For those who are suffering from TBI, enjoying a high quality of life can be a significant undertaking. Brain injuries can affect cognitive, physical, behavior, and psychosocial functioning—creating substantial stress and burdens on brain injured victim’s families. Neurologic music therapy (NMT) is an approach that has been successful for many TBI victims and their families.

What is Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT)?

Neurologic music therapy (NMT) is a clinical program that’s based on research in the neuroscience of music perception and production. While first met with skepticism when it was introduced, music was not thought of as a viable treatment until scientific and clinical research began to show the brain’s ability to adjust, and its connection to music.

Neurologic music therapy (NMT) promotes the rehabilitation of speech and motor abilities through instrument play, singing, and movement to music.

People became aware of NMT when it was used to help U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona recover her speech after a gunshot wound in 2011 that resulted in TBI.

What are Some of the Common Physical Effects of A Brain Injury?

There are numerous effects of brain injury that are often not apparent, and some TBI victims have physical problems. These kinds of physical problems can have a real impact on daily life. Some of the more common physical effects of a brain injury include the following:

  • Mobility problems;
  • Weakness;
  • Paralysis;
  • Spasticity
  • Ataxia (a degenerative disease of the nervous system);
  • Epilepsy;
  • Sensory Impairment;
  • Fatigue; and
  • Speech Difficulties.

But with NMT, TBI victims suffering from these kinds of physical effects are finding that it doesn’t have to be an obstacle when it comes to performing, writing, or listening to music.

What Types of Functions Can Music Impact?

Studies have shown that by following rhythmic patterns, TBI victims can develop their muscular control and fine motor coordination, and improve their sensory responsiveness, which may have been impacted because of brain injury.

Music can also improve other types of medical procedures and treatment. Clinical trials of people having procedures such as colonoscopies, cardiac angiography, and knee surgery showed that those who listened to music prior to their procedure had less anxiety and a reduced need for sedatives. And those who listened to music in the operating room said they had less discomfort during their procedure. Likewise, listening to music in the post-op recovery room lowered the use of opioid painkillers.

As far as music and pain relief, studies show that music therapy decreases pain perception, reduces the amount of pain medication required, helps to relieve depression, and gives individuals a sense of better control over their pain.

Music therapy has also been shown to increase speech and communication in patients who are unable to talk but have the ability to sing. Experts say that these patients benefit from singing and music improvisation. Singing also helps with verbal communication skills like breath control and speech timing. Singing and music improvisation also give these patients an opportunity to express feelings experienced by these patients. It’s common for patients with communication difficulties to have depression.

Patients with a lack of range of motion and muscle control can spend hours stretching and strengthening muscles. NMT practitioners say that playing music motivates patients to extend their physiotherapy workouts. They also find that patients are receptive to exercising to upbeat music, exercising their mouth muscles, and playing the drums to increase arm movement.

Finally, music therapy can promote cognition, which can be critical in TBI. Rhyming, chanting, and rapping have been found to be helpful for developing sequencing skills, and listening to music improves concentration. Research found that patients who are easily distracted can concentrate on a song for several minutes. In addition, NMT practitioners say that songwriting is another tool used to help with distraction. Many therapists work on patients’ cognition by setting phrases to music, and assisting patients in creating songs with lyrics that contain important information.

While people have believed in music’s healing powers for centuries, it is only in the past few decades that the scientific community has come to embrace it and recognize its value, especially in victims of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

Contact us!

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is devastating, and our attorneys can help you or your loved one find appropriate medical treatment, including neurologic music therapy (NMT).

For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Michigan, contact Buchanan Firm. We can discuss your situation and determine the best course of action.

Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs. We will meet you after-hours, at home or in the hospital to accommodate you.

Contact us today!