Health Beat: Healing with harmony: Music in medicine

Posted: 2:38 PM EDT May 09, 2013   Updated: 6:43 PM EDT May 09, 2013
Healing with harmony

Harmonies could be healing. New research points to music as the next big helper for many diseases and medical conditions.

Whether it's pop, hip-hop, country, or classical, we all have a favorite song, but now doctors say it could be moving your health along in the right direction, too.

Danielle Decosmo’s stage is a hospital room. She's a hospital volunteer who sings and plays for patients.

One of her patients, Virginia, said the music "just uplifts you."

"It does a lot towards helping you get the right attitude to heal instead of feeling down and sorry for yourself,” said Virginia's husband, David.

“I do see a change often," stated Danielle. “I definitely think music helps people heal.”

Board certified music therapist Elizabeth Stegemoller said she knows it does. 

"Music stimulates multiple areas of the brain," she said.

Also a neuroscience PhD, Stegemoller specializes in Parkinson’s and said walking in time with music can help patients move.

“If you have a person with a motor disorder, you can use music to help facilitate movement," explained Stegemoller. 

She said after singing, Parkinson’s patients’ speech can improve, too.

A program at St. Louis University is testing if music improves cancer treatment by decreasing stress.

Research at the University of Kentucky found it did reduce surgery patients’ pain and recovery time, and it’s been shown to increase Alzheimer’s patients’ cognitive function.

"There’s a lot of theories out there as to why it’s working, so now those theories need to be tested," Stegemoller said.

In the meantime, music seems to be making Virginia’s treatment a little more bearable. 

"You just feel good," she said.

Music programs for veterans with PTSD are also showing promise. A study found after six weeks of guitar lessons, the vets reported a 21 percent reduction in  symptoms and a 37 percent increase in health-related quality of life.

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