Dance and Music Therapy – Can a Beat Help Heal? by Mark Wimbley, M.D.
In the U.S., we have high rates of chronic pain, autism, ADD, depression and anxiety, insomnia, and adult and childhood obesity. Dance is a well known high calorie burning form of movement and a way to connect with others. In Europe, it is quite common for medical doctors to prescribe dance, art or music therapy because it gets to the gets the core or soul of the patient. Dance therapy is being used as part of pain management, cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy and physical therapy.
There is a lot of concern about opiates and benzodiazepines which are two types of medicines often used for pain, anxiety, and insomnia. Some professionals, patients, and parents alike may be concerned about the use of antidepressants and ADD medications as well. Patients with acute/chronic pain have reduction in pain and need to take less opiates and pain medication with the help of dance therapy. This is in part due to the social and psychological benefits, as well as the distraction. Dance helps pain patients by elevating their mood, improving body movement, muscle conditioning, plus it can aid in weight loss which also helps reduce pain for overweight individuals.
I see in our clinics an increased prevalence of both autism and ADD. Some reports find as many as 5 out of 10 boys may have ADD; autistic traits may be as high as 2 out 4 kids according to a school psychologist. A study in Sweden indicates that boys with ADD in dance therapy calmed down, had better focus in class, and were involved in fewer conflicts. Autistic and ADD children should continue their medical treatment and consider adding dance and music therapy treatments.
Dancing offers health benefits for anyone. It can improve your cardiovascular health, muscle tone, balance, and coordination. Additionally, dance is an effective adjunct in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and depression. Dr Keil published a review of literature of 11 trials in Sweden and the U.S. which indicate that dance showed benefits for patients with dementia, Parkinson’s, shoulder pain, depression, fibromyalgia, and quality of life in heart failure patients. Studies at UCLA and other institutions show that chronic stress can lead to cancer development by weakening the immune system; dancing definitely reduces anxiety and stress.
Music therapy can also be used as a part of pain management. Music can help to soothe, inspire, and energize patients who have pain. Music has been used as a part of medicine for thousands of years. There are music therapists working with patients with chronic pain in U.S. hospitals, pain clinics, senior centers, and rehabilitation hospitals. Research demonstrates that music reduces the perception of pain, improves relaxation, decreases anxiety and stress, plus improves one’s mood. These benefits allow the patient to need less pain medication in addition to lowering their blood pressure and heart rate. Music therapy can involve listening to music, making music, singing, writing music, and using music to form images in your mind while meditating to music.
If you have traveled to Europe, Asia, Africa, or South America you may remember seeing people getting together in homes, restaurants or clubs socializing and dancing. The way we live in a hurry, always on the phone or working too much, most of us can almost palpably feel the pressure we live with. By listening to music and beginning to move to beat, you will find that you will get a good workout over time since you’re burning calories, but also it has a soothing impact on you. Dance should be a social event; you can dance with your kids, spouse, and friends. Dancing is fun and can be a great way to connect; you do not have to be the best, just give at try and get moving. Dancing is beneficial for everyone!
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