Multiple Sclerosis and Melodies: Healing Through Music
Music is a spiritual experience. I love music in all of its forms. I grew up being serenaded by parents harmonizing everything from the Phi Gam fight song to Peter, Paul and Mary.
After crucifying the clarinet, I played the piano until my late teens. I have fond memories of trips to the city for musicals, plays, operas, and the symphony. The music spoke to me then and it still does today.
Music has the power to transport. As those few notes begin, a magic door to a melodic time machine opens. In the time it takes for the average song to play, I have relived all of my freshman year. At a time when we are relegated to living at home, music provides an escape worthy of a four-star review. Maybe even five.
I may be unable to tell you where I put my keys, but I can tell you the song I had my first slow dance to: “Open Arms” by Journey.
I use specialized playlists to address pain, anxiety, and sadness. I notice both a psychological and a physiological shift when I listen to them. I have trained myself to use music much as I would use guided imagery. Instead of images, I use the notes of the song.
When I am in pain, I play light classical music or ambient noise such as ocean waves or rain. I have found these soothing sounds to help my anxiety as well.
A recent spike in my anxiety led me to create a playlist with notes conducive to quieting my mind. I do that by soothing my body. Doing this has illuminated the mind-body connection. I have yet to find a prescription as potent.
Multiple sclerosis has had a profound effect on my fingers. My right hand has more difficulty with dexterity. Playing the piano helps move them in a repetitive motion. Creating music is a lovely benefit. Expressing my emotions through my choice in music is cathartic.
Several studies have highlighted the benefits of music for multiple sclerosis. Music elicits areas of the brain that help improve speed, strength, and balance. Therefore, neurologists have used rhythm to improve gait in those with foot drop. I have created a short playlist with a consistent beat to help my gait. Although slow, it is a steady metronome I can follow. I try to do this daily around the house or the yard.
Similarly, music has been shown to improve cognition. We all experience cog-fog to one degree or another. My fog is sometimes difficult to lift. Dysarthria is worse on some days than on others. Music is a wonderful mechanism to stimulate areas of the brain. In the darkness before dawn, I play soft ambient sounds conducive to meditation. My brain wakes alongside my body. I feel quietly alert afterward and ready for my day.
A song is more than just a summary of notes. It is part of a sacred time capsule. An invitation to memory that only you are privy to. I needed a boost this morning, so I chose Bob Marley and the Beach Boys. I am calm and feel the sun on my shoulders. I hear the echo of the surf hitting the shore as I sink deeper into the warm mold of sand. This musical montage is mine to cherish. I smile as I recall details that bring me joy.
But I still cannot find my keys.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.