Musicís healing touch

Music can contribute a great deal to medical science in relieving stress of the mind and body. It has a direct impact on a personís mood and well-being, says Nutan Sehgal

AS a typical young teenager, Sakshi had her highs and lows. Once after a massive brawl with her sister, she stormed into her room, turned on the music and closed her eyes. Always very fond of music, she felt the vibrations flow through her body, soothing her frayed nerves and calming her mind. To her motherís surprise, she was back to her normal chirpy self in an hour.

Music works wonderfully on patients suffering from mental tension
Music works wonderfully on patients suffering from mental tension

After that day Sakshi began experimenting with music therapy every time she was depressed or angry. Sensing this new change, her mother encouraged her to retire to her room during her lows and commune with music.

What Sakshi and her mother discovered accidentally has now been proven scientifically and widely practicedómusic does provide a potent healing touch to frayed nerves.

Once thought to be a device merely to keep patients in good spirits, music therapy is today exploring new frontiers and coming into its own as a cure. Psychiatrists say that music has a direct impact on the mood and physical well being. In the West, it is widely being used in old-age homes, asylums and maternity wards.

According to Dr Bijoy Sengupta, a Delhi-based senior psychiatrist, "music has healing powers and a mood stability function. It works wonderfully on patients who have psychosomatic problems or those suffering from mental tension."

Laboratory studies suggest that music also has the power to accelerate metabolism, increase or decrease muscular energy and regulate respiration. It also produces a positive effect on blood pressure and influences internal secretions. Psychiatric patients who are given music therapy show remarkable behavioural changes.

Certain kind of background music can increase the quality of a patientís verbal interaction. In fact, music with smooth rhythm has a healing effect on the disturbed motor responses of schizophrenic patients. It stimulates responses and encourages expression of thoughts and feelings.

Says Dr. Sengupta: "The techniques of music therapy are being applied in the treatment of autism, schizophrenia, retardation and behavioural as well as other psychiatric disorders in children, adolescents, adults and geriatric patients." Music is also being used to rehabilitate patients with impaired vision, hearing and speech defects, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and orthopaedic disorders.

Interestingly, the curative value of music was recognised as far back as 1650 when the celebrated German medical scholar Athanasius Kircher published his treatise titled Musurgia Universalis, which dealt with the use of music in the treatment of illness. Later, with the invention of the phonograph, music began to be used as a diversion for patients during the day and as an aid for sleep at night.

Music therapy has traditionally been treated as an adjunct to psychotherapy because, explains Dr. Sengupta, "music is part of a human social process, and it works best with psychiatry." The music therapist and the psychiatrist often work supportively, creating a musical emotional environment that enhances a patientís responses. Rhythm instruments are used in this procedure.

Music, whether western or Indian classical, can contribute a great deal to medical science in relieving stress of the mind and body. The concept is not just being used at therapeutic centres but is being utilised at various public places like super markets, hotels, airplanes and even at some offices.

Experiments are underway at interfacing musical instruments with medical programmes. Here rhythm is interlinked to a patientís pulse and synchronised with breathing. The volume is gradually reduced and body metabolism comes down. ó NF