By: Sasha Klemawesch, MD
Do you get misty-eyed every time you’re standing in RayJay, waiting for kickoff, listening to the National Anthem? Or do other drivers give you the side-eye when they catch you singing R-e-S-p-E-c-T into your air mic while sitting at a red light? No matter what genre you prefer, everyone has been moved by music at some point.
Cultures throughout history have recognized and made use of this, specifically, sound’s healing power. For example, aboriginal healers used the low frequency tones of the Yidaki instrument during their treatment of sick tribal members. Ancient Egyptians believed vowels to have held sacred power, so priests chanted them for healing prayers. Priestesses meanwhile played Ras (rattles) and harps during therapeutic rituals, both of them typically doing so in reverberant chambers which augmented the ultrasonic vibrations they were creating.
This latter phenomenon is the basis for modern science’s foray into sound therapy. Vibroacoustic treatment as we know it today started in Scandinavia in the 70’s; where early reports cited reduction in muscle tension, pain and anxiety after exposure. Since then, there have been a variety of research studies done in the area of sound and music therapy, including (more recently):
- Just 2 weeks of vibroacoustic treatment using classical music, done 30 min a day for 5 days a week, led to statistically significant reduction in depression among nursing home residents.
- NIH observed a group of patients with issues ranging from cancer to cardiovascular and infectious diseases to mood disorders, who underwent vibroacoustic sound treatment, and found a 53% “cumulative reduction in pain and symptoms” including tension, nausea, and fatigue.
- Yet another study found that vibroacoustic therapy helped decrease maladaptive behaviors and acting-out among children on the Autism spectrum.
One of the theories behind its effectiveness is the idea that our bodies are constantly using energy (at the cellular level seen as persistent micro-vibrations), and injury, stress or other sicknesses sap the speed and intensity of these micro-vibrations, further compounding fatigue, immunologic dysfunction, and overall chronic illness. It may seem a little new-agey to those with more western allopathic mindsets, but the goal of vibroacoustic therapy is to replenish this cellular energy and “get us vibrating at the optimal frequency”. And when you add music to the equation you are accessing a whole additional set of benefits with how much music affects the brain. Now the eastern vs western, alternative vs allopathic medicine debate is for another time, but it’s hard to argue with the results to date in the vibroacoustic therapy arena. In fact, you could say, it’s a pretty sound option for treatment!