Music has worked its way into the daily lives of most people and has the power to calm, motivate, and inspire. According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), music therapy is a conventional health profession that uses music to address and improve the physical, psychological, cognitive and/or social functioning for patients of all ages and disabilities. Music therapy is the use of music to accomplish individualized goals of a patient in a therapeutic setting. Music therapists work with a broad population of people such as those with autism, intellectual disabilities, behavioral-emotional disorders, chronic pain, deafness, blindness, and traumatic brain injuries. Music therapists can work in many different facilities such as schools and hospitals to drug and alcohol programs and hospice services. A music therapist will provide designated treatment by singing, moving to, creating, or listening to music. Through this, the patient’s abilities become strengthened and are applied to their daily lives.
Many theories are used alongside music therapy such as the Gate Control Theory of Pain. This theory explains that humans are only able to perceive so much stimulation at once. When a different source of focus is introduced, the pain being perceived decreases because it is not being focused on. Although this does not get rid of the pain that is actually there, this distraction helps facilitate relaxation and can work as a positive stimulus. This is used a lot when in music therapy when working with patients with chronic diseases to help with pain management, helping provide sensory stimulation to provoke a response in patients such as relaxation and the release of pain and stress. Music therapists use music to affect the perception of pain that the patient is going through by focusing on singing, playing an instrument, or listening to music. The patient redirects their attention to the task at hand and shuts the gate on the pain. When pairing music with these techniques, eventually the patient learns how to relax automatically when listening, playing, or singing to the music.
The use of music therapy in pain management is something that I can relate to personally. I have suffered from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis for more than half of my life and although I never had music therapy, I used music to help cope with my pain. Dealing with chronic pain is difficult because it is not usually something that can be physically seen by others but singing and playing guitar have always been ways I am able to verbally express the emotional and physical pain I was going through. Using music has helped me temporarily forget about the pain I was experiencing and distract from negative thoughts of weakness and feeling inadequate. Music therapy does not get rid of the pain from chronic diseases, but it enables the belief of a regained sense of control over pain.
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