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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