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What Bohemian Rhapsody Teaches Us About Music for Movement Therapy

April 3, 2019
David Wilcox, OTR/L, Clinical Educator
Blog
What Bohemian Rhapsody Teaches Us About Music for
Movement Therapy


On a plane en route to Singapore, I came across the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, a biopic about the legendary English rock band Queen that created a buzz at this year’s Oscars. The last scene brought the band together on stage to play a 24-minute set at the 1985 Live Aid Concert in London. The camera turned toward the crowd. All 100,000 people were moving and singing in perfect rhythm.

Music has power. It moves us emotionally, psychologically, physically, often without us even knowing. Whether it’s moving naturally to the beat of a song while driving to work, or while meditating during yoga practice, music somehow finds a way into our busy lives. Now, thanks to a growing foundation of research, music is rightfully finding its way into clinical practice.

Read on to learn:

  • How music causes changes in the brain
  • How research supports using music in movement therapy
  • How technology makes it easier to blend music-enhanced therapy with traditional methods


How Our Brains Change: Neuroplasticity
Beyond the feelings music evokes in us, the body’s ability to adapt or change to music occurs naturally at a deeper, neurologic level. This well-known and studied adaptability of the human central nervous system (CNS) is called neuroplasticity. This adaptability not only occurs in healthy people, but in those who have neurologic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke.

Thanks to a growing foundation of research, music is rightfully finding its way into clinical practice.

While it was once believed in the early half of the twentieth century that the CNS couldn’t adapt with injury, neuroplasticity is now accepted as an ongoing occurrence that serves as the backbone for medical interventions, evidenced-based practice, and medical device development.

Science Behind Music used in Movement Therapy
Over the past few years, the influence of music on the neuromotor system, along with the supporting evidence, has received the attention of researchers, scientists, and clinicians. This non-traditional, “outside the box” treatment intervention is proving to have staggering results on improving gait in people with common neurologic disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease.

Beyond the feelings music evokes in us, the body’s ability to adapt or change to music occurs naturally at a deeper, neurologic level.

Research studies have long supported and clinics have shown how rhythmical beats from metronomes can increase stride length in people with neurological conditions. Only in recent years have other aspects of music, such as the piano, base, and guitar cued at specific moments, been recognized as targeting other and equally important components of walking, such as arm swing, hip rotation, and cervical extension.

How Technology Captures the Effects of Music
Despite how we intuitively know that music impacts the way we move, think, and feel, we live in a time when everything must be backed by science. Fortunately, technology has been developed to make that possible. For example, rehab technology like the Biodex Gait Trainer 3 enables researchers to study music’s impact on movement and capture necessary supportive data.

The music-enhanced treadmill system allows therapists guided by evidenced-based practice standards to influence change faster and better by integrating music with traditional treatment interventions. Temporal gait parameters are objectively captured in the software, so therapists can easily see their patient’s current status, how much they’ve improved, and what they need to improve upon to reach their goals.

Rehab technology like the Biodex Gait Trainer 3 enables researchers to study music’s impact on movement and capture necessary supportive data.

Music-Enhanced Gait Training: Clinical Account
Recently, I had the opportunity to see how music infused with traditional interventions changed a patient’s gait patterns in just 1-2 treatments sessions. The temporal gait parameters improvements were captured in the Gait Trainer software objectively, supporting my own subjective observations.

In the midst of shortened treatment sessions and decreased length of stays, therapists face daily pressures to show patient progress that is objective, measurable, and evidence-based. In conjunction with scientific research strongly supporting music’s impact on movement in a relatively short amount of time, it only makes sense to me to incorporate music into everyday practice.

Conclusion: Moving Music Forward
Music is part of all our lives in one way or another. Yet, the movement changes we see are based on the scientific neuroplasticity principles. Music is intuitive, yet backed by the evidence. Music is natural, yet technology is able to capture objective, measureable outcomes needed to show progress in therapy.

Music is intuitive, yet backed by the evidence. Music is natural, yet technology is able to capture objective, measureable outcomes needed to show progress in therapy.

Just as Queen took a chance on releasing their unconventional song, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” it is important for us as therapists – correction, our responsibility – to step out of the box and incorporate music into therapy. Our patients need and deserve the best therapeutic interventions available so they can get back to the things they want to do as independently as possible.

 

Interested in learning more?

Download the White Paper: Rehabilitation of Neurologically Affected Gait with Music Enhanced Treadmill

 

 

Author:

Biodex Clinical Educator

David Wilcox, OTR/L, Clinical Educator
Biodex Medical Systems, Inc.

   

 

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