Music Prescriptions: How IAMM Is Raising the Bar on Disseminating and Nurturing Research in Music and Medicine

By Clements-Cortès, Amy | The Canadian Music Educator, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Music Prescriptions: How IAMM Is Raising the Bar on Disseminating and Nurturing Research in Music and Medicine


Clements-Cortès, Amy, The Canadian Music Educator


Informally people use music every day in a variety of daily activities, such as background music for dressing, eating and driving, or to help them get through a workout. Many times this music is turned on automatically when beginning certain activities and not much thought goes into the specific music selections, especially if it is the radio providing the music. In these situations people may receive benefits but the music is not prescribed and the benefits are not monitored.

A variety of healthcare professionals may also use music when providing care. For example, a nurse may put on recorded music when dressing or washing a patient, or a therapeutic recreationist might put on music while gathering persons for a social program. Family caregivers may also use music when they are feeding or visiting a loved one. These are examples of using music in care, but they are not examples of music medicine.

What is Music Medicine?

Music Medicine involves both live and recorded music interventions where music and sound are prescribed to alleviate symptoms associated with issues such as pain and stress (Tramo, Lense, Van Ness, Kagan, Settle, & Cronin, 2011). When a music therapist introduces a music and medicine intervention(s) it is applied within a therapeutic relationship, but the focus is on the specific intervention and its contribution towards medical and overall healthcare (Dileo & Bradt, 2005). In essence, here the music and medicine intervention is part of the overall implementation of music therapy services for a client. Evidence based music medicine practice contributes to the discipline of music therapy by illuminating the specific aspects and effects of music therapy interventions on client concerns (Hanson-Abromeit, 2010; Hillecke, Nickel, & Bolay, 2005).

Why Use Music in Medical Treatment?

Music and medicine have been paired together throughout history and music was used by many ancient cultures in connection with healing practices. There are a number of things about music that make it powerful and effective in a variety of situations. For example:

* Music can change and evoke moods

* Music can stimulate extra musical associations &

* Music may influence physiological processes, such as heart rate, and blood pressure.

Humans are wired to respond to external beats and when we hear music at a certain tempo our heart rate, breathing and brain waves entrain to that external rhythm. These principles are important for those implementing or prescribing music to consider when selecting music to help patients reach their goals. For example, a fast paced song may provide the drive and motivation for a patient in physiotherapy to complete their exercises. Slower or sedative music may contribute to lower levels of anxiety, tension and stress and even facilitate sleep.

Edwards (2005) discusses the importance of defining precise music characteristics and approaches/interventions in the design of medical music therapy investigations which could involve isolating specific elements in music, instrument choices and the performance of the music itself. Results of Sena-Moore's (2013) systematic review of the neural effects of music in emotion regulation found both desired and undesired neural activation patterns were produced by certain music features and experiences. Through listening to familiar and/or preferred music, singing or improvising, desired neural activation patterns occurred whereas characteristics such as dissonance or complexity caused the arousal of undesired neural activation patterns. These musical features are important for music medicine practitioners to recognize when designing musical interventions for their patients. Physical and emotional well-being of the patient are evaluated by means of objective, non-musical sources, such as Likert scales or standardized tests (Walker, Nguyen, Hanson-Abromeit, Loewy, & Cotter-Schaufele, 2010).

Investigations Using Music in Medical Treatment

The research in music and medicine has a solid culturally diverse foundation which is continually growing. …

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