Materia Medica Malaysiana

June 3, 2007

More than music to the ears, now it also heals

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 8:42 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: After a stressful day at the office, all you want to do is put on some soothing music and relax.
And this, apparently, is not mere indulgence but has actual benefits on your health.
Music therapy (MT) is an increasingly popular alternative treatment and it is being actively researched and practised worldwide.
It is, in fact, an established form of treatment that uses music to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals of all ages.
Music therapy improves the quality of life for those who are well, and meets the needs of children and adults with disabilities or illnesses.
It helps to promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, express feelings, enhance memory, improve communication and promote physical rehabilitation.
MT is well-suited for very young children as it stimulates the brain when it is still malleable. It also works for those coping with autism-spectrum challenges, language difficulties, anxiety, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar, and those needing to build social skills and or facing challenges with schoolwork.
The therapy revolves around the fusing of music or sound to deliver specific refined tones or frequencies which relate to the physiology of the human body.
“The science of adapting tones to physiology is an art,” said Dr T. Mythily, a renowned classical vocalist and music therapist, who is also a cognitive neuro-psychologist and music therapist at the Apollo Hospital in Chennai, India.
She heads the Prahlab Music Therapy wing, which is the only research and treatment facility of its kind in Asia.
MT is one of the oldest known treatments, dating back 5,000 years, and it originates from India.
Its practice had been quoted in epics such as the Mahabaratha and the Bagavad Gita.
According to these epics, a pregnant mother was treated by Lord Narayanna, where it was found that the foetus became more active when the veenai (Indian classical instrument) was played.
The learning ability and physical development of the child were greater than that of other children at the time.
Research shows that when we listen to music, our minds relate to various stimulus in known patterns and produce a result or conclusion through our behaviour.
The frequencies and vibrations react to the nervous system producing a given goal, for example, calmness in stressful situations.
MT is used in paediatrics, gynaecology, cardiac and neurological fields.
Among others, it has been found to be successful in treating hyperactivity, enhancing speech fluency, overcoming learning disability and ensuring motor skills development in children.
In research conducted by Dr Mythily, music was played to 84 foetuses in their mothers’ wombs.
It was found that there was increased activity, and more movement could be felt.
The mothers, too, experienced an easier delivery and the child later showed enhanced learning ability and faster development of motor skills compared with a child who was not exposed to MT.
In other research conducted on workers at the Reserve Bank of India who complained of high stress levels, MT was found to be successful in reducing blood pressure readings over a period of three months.
Many researchers are excited over the possibility of using MT as a holistic approach to treatment with no side-effects. The therapy is administered over a course of 10 to 40 minutes, two to three times daily, depending on the ailment.
Malaysian MT practitioner Shoba Ramanathan, who operates a private clinic in Petaling Jaya, said there had been a marked increase in the number of patients seeking MT as treatment.
The number of cases had risen from five cases a week in 2001 to 30 a week this year, she said.
“I specialise in using MT to treat children with special needs, for example those who are hyperactive or have cerebral palsy or Down’s syndrome.”
An assessment is made of the child before a treatment programme is drawn up. Specific goals are measured over a period of three months and the duration of each treatment session is 45 minutes.
Shoba said there had been measurable improvement in the children’s motor skills and basic physical and mental keeness, which could be transferred into real-life capabilities.
They also learned better in school, were calmer and able to communicate effectively.
Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin said the use of MT as a form of treatment was “not unacceptable”.
Dr Edward Chan from the Malaysian Psychology Centre, meanwhile, said MT was an alternative and complementary treatment used for children with difficulties. He said there had been cases where the vocal capabilities of the children improved with MT.
However, the use of MT, Dr Chan said, was still in its infancy here.

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