Wellness CenterMay 2015
We all know that physical exercise helps you to move better, improve your balance and maintain your physical strength. But how does music therapy-based exercise help you with that? Exercising with music is fun, but that’s not all. Whether you are musical, a musician, or have no musical background at all, you move better and more functionally with music.
How so? Because our brain LOVES rhythm. Rhythm helps to create regularity in our activities such as movements, physiological responses like breathing, and information processing. Research has shown that rhythmic cues could be an effective timekeeper despite basal ganglia deficits and rapidly forms stable and precise internal templates to organize motor responses (McIntosh et al., 1997, Thaut, 2005). Board certified music therapists are trained to appropriately utilize the elements of music such as rhythm to drive the best possible, desired responses in therapy for each client’s needs including improving walking patterns, movement coordination, and balance.
Using commercially-recorded music gives a limitation that you tend to adjust—“move to” that tempo (speed) or rhythm of the music. Whereas music (song) selections made by music therapists in therapy are to “facilitate” the movement in an optimal way, so you will be encouraged to naturally “move along” with the music. Your exercise movements can achieve more fluidity and coordination. In addition, music is a highly structured art medium. It provides you opportunities for repetitions so that you are able to exercise or relearn movements or skills in the optimal way.
You may feel that you understand the importance of exercise, but may feel discouraged due to pain or physical discomfort you are experiencing. Up to 85% of individuals with Parkinson’s reported that pain is a concern (Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, 2015). Research results have suggested the positive effects of therapeutic music listening for pain management (American Music Therapy Association, 2015) as it helps us to redirect your focus away from unpleasant sensation. In fact, many of my clients have mentioned that they did not focus on their pain or physical discomfort while exercising with music during music therapy sessions.
It may be easy to see the relation between singing and speech because we use the same physiological functions. It means the shared areas of the brain are activated while speaking and singing. Moreover, research has found that while we are singing, we use additional parts of the brain in addition to those shared areas (Özdemir, Norton, & Schlaug, 2006; Tamplin, 2008; Thaut, 2005). This indicates that singing, when it is clinically crafted as a therapy exercise medium, can enhance neuroplasticity, which allows the neurons in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or change in their environment.
It is obvious that music brings us some emotional sensations. Music brings back fond memories from the past and allows you to reminisce. Music is deeply associated with our feelings and can be stored with your memory. Sometimes it can go to the opposite direction - music may bring you negative feelings or emotions. If music happens to evoke negative emotions, music therapists are trained to properly follow up on this situation. When we introduce music/songs in a sensible manner during music therapy sessions, it would support you to express your emotions in a caring, encouraging environment. It would also work as a catalyst to better connect with family and friends regardless of your challenges with Parkinson’s.
If you are interested in exploring the benefits of music therapy for Parkinson’s, join us at Music Therapy for PD at Ted Brown Music in Tacoma.
Megumi Azekawa is a board certified music therapist and owner/director of Puget Sound Music Therapy. She facilitates the NWPF’s new program, Music Therapy for PD at Ted Brown Music in Tacoma. She also shares her music therapy knowledge and insight in her blog, Musically Thinking.
American Music Therapy Association (2015). Music therapy and music-based interventions in the treatment and management of pain: selected references and key findings.http://www.musictherapy.org/assets/1/7/MT_Pain_2010.pdf.
McIntosh, G. C. et al. (1997). Rhythmic auditory-motor facilitation of gait patterns in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, 62, 22-26.
Özdemir, E., Norton, A., & Schlaug, G. f(2006). Shared and distinct neural correlates of singing and speaking. Neuroimage. 2006;33:628–635.
Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (2015). Pain. http://www.pdf.org/en/pain_pd.
Tamplin, J. & Grocke, D. (2008). A music therapy treatment protocol for acquired dysarthria rehabilitation. Music Therapy Perspectives, 26(1), 23-29.
Thaut, M. (2005). Rhythm, Music, and the Brain: scientific foundations and clinical applications. New York: Routledge.
Megumi Azekawa, MM, MT-BC
Music Therapy for PD Instructor, NWPF Guest Blogger
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