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Music Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

Content provided by: Better Medicine from Healthgrades

Beyond the long list of medications and physical rehabilitation techniques used to help people with multiple sclerosis (MS), there’s another kind of treatment that may offer relief: music therapy. Music has been shown to make a difference in the lives and well-being of people with MS in many ways. The best part is that you don’t have to have any musical skills or ability—just an openness to discover how music can benefit you.

Improving Coordination and Movement

Music therapy teaches you to match your body’s actions with a rhythmic beat. This can help you boost your coordination, endurance, and concentration. It can also lead to a more even gait.

“Music therapy often involves using instruments in a group setting,” says Al Bumanis, a board-certified music therapist in Silver Springs, Maryland. “But it’s not about creating great music. It’s the physical motions and coordination involved in making music that can have significant benefits for individuals.”

Even if you’ve lost some physical ability and can’t play an instrument, adaptive devices—such as a synthesizer on an iPad that works by fingertip touch—can still allow you to participate in music-making.

Boosting Memory

Music can also help people with MS who experience changes with memory. It is a powerful tool. Unlike with speech, your brain almost never loses the ability to process music.

“In this way, music therapy can make a big difference in your quality of life,” Bumanis says. “Despite the memory changes you may be experiencing, when you’re able to sing a song that’s rooted in your memory, it makes you feel like yourself again.”  

The relationship between music and memory is a complex one. For instance, the part of your brain that fires when you hear music is linked to the part of your brain where your long-term memories are stored. As a result, listening to music can elicit certain feelings associated with those memories. It can help you recall moments you may have thought were lost. In addition, learning a new physical skill, such as playing an instrument, improves your memory by building new brain connections.

Easing the Emotional Effects of MS

Many people with MS experience depression, anxiety, fear, and stress from time to time.

“Music therapy opens the door for emotional expression,” Bumanis continues. “Music is often a way of accessing those emotions that may be difficult to verbalize.” Certain types of music can also help improve your mood and relax your mind.

If you’re interested in learning more about music therapy or locating a credentialed music therapist near you, visit the American Music Therapy Association.

Key Takeaways

  • Music has been shown to make a difference in the well-being of people with MS.

  • Music therapy teaches you to match your body’s actions with a rhythmic beat. This can help boost your coordination, endurance, and concentration.

  • Listening to music can elicit certain feelings associated with memories, helping you recall moments you may have thought were lost.

  • Playing and listening to music also has been shown to help people cope with fear, stress, and depression.

Medical Reviewer: Robert Williams, MD Last Annual Review Date: 2013-05-01 Copyright: © Copyright 2013 Healthgrades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

Reference: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) section on Better Medicine

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