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Music Is an Effective Relaxation Technique for People in Chemotherapy


One of the most common forms of treatment for cancer is chemotherapy. People who receive chemotherapy often have to undergo several sessions, and most experience significant physical and psychological side effects. In addition to being anxious and nervous about their cancer diagnosis and prognosis, it is also common for these individuals to worry about how the chemotherapy will affect them. In the aftermath of chemotherapy, many individuals go through intense pain, weakness, fatigue, nausea, and/or depression. Therefore, many approaches have been developed to assist individuals receiving chemotherapy with the goal of minimizing psychological and physical distress. One such approach is the use of music to help clients relax. In a recent study, Rolf Verres of the Institute for Medical Psychology at the University of Heidelberg in Germany compared the effects of a monochord (MC) music therapy strategy to that of a progressive muscle relaxation technique (PMR) in a sample of 40 women undergoing chemotherapy for gynecological cancer.

Monochord music has been used in Germany effectively in the treatment of psychological conditions, but has never been measured in a clinical context. Verres chose not to evaluate MC against a control group because he felt not offering study participants treatment of any kind would be unethical considering the stress they were already under. Verres monitored the neural responses of the clients over several sessions of chemotherapy and found that MC proved to be a highly effective form of treatment.

Specifically, the clients in both groups saw marked reductions in anxiety and large improvements in both psychological and physical well-being. Verres also noticed that the reductions were gradual and occurred as MC/PMR/chemo progressed. The only significant difference that was revealed by comparing the two forms of relaxation was that the PMR group had steady improvements while the MC group had their most dramatic improvements between the fourth and fifth sessions. Verres believes this is because PMR is practiced and clients get better and more confidant with their skills over time, while there is no learning curve when listening to MC. These findings suggest that MC is a viable relaxation strategy for individuals facing chemotherapy. “However,” added Verres, “In a future study, setting up a control group would help to clarify the exact relaxation effect between pre and post measurement in each session.”

Lee, Eun-Jeong, et al. (2013). Monochord sounds and progressive muscle relaxation reduce anxiety and improve relaxation during chemotherapy: A pilot EEG study. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 20.6 (2012): 409-16. ProQuest. Web.

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  • spitzer March 26th, 2013 at 3:42 AM #1

    I know that when my friend who had lung cancer had to undergo her chemo treatments, she sad that the only thing that could take her mind off of the sickness and the nausea was being able to listen to her music during treatment. She always felt so terrible afterwards, which makes me wonder why so many people even try it when for some there is so little chance that it will be effective, but the only way she could even psych herself up to go sometimes was the notion of being able to sit back for a few hours and listen to her iPod.

  • Leprechaun March 27th, 2013 at 12:03 AM #2

    Music is a wonderful healer. Whether it is for depression or to alleviate pain, music can come down and become a hero in quick time. It has helped me tide over numerous issues in my long life and even today it is one companion I cannot be without. Use music for leave and for recovery and growth. It is bound to help. Let us take this vow to use music to redeem ourselves and to help all those around us. Peace and love.

  • Abigail March 27th, 2013 at 3:59 AM #3

    Thankfully, this far in my life I have never had to go into a facility where chemotherapy is being given. But if this is happening that music helps with relaxing patients, there should be treatment centers everywhere that have music piped in for the patients all the time. I guess the hard part with that is that no one is ever going to like the same stuff all the time, but if it is classical for example, most people can sit back and enjoy that no matter which form of mainstream music that they like. And although nothing is really going to make chemo more pleasant, maybe integrating a program like this can at least help to make it a little more bearable.

  • hearne March 27th, 2013 at 11:55 PM #4

    different music evokes different moods. and if were able to provide a form that is readily accepted and benefits these patients then I dont see why that should be stopped. clients should be made aware of the advantages that this can provide prior to their chemotherapy sessions so that they are better prepared and even look forward to the music sessions.there is so mcuh going through someone in chemotherapy.a little help in the form of music would be a welcome relief I suppose.

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