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Many of my clients sometimes comment on my ‘unusual and eclectic nature of musical choice’ in my treatment rooms.  I won’t deny it, I have very unusual contemporary tastes and for as long as I have been massaging, I have always maintained that music is a very important part of the treatment for me.  It establishes a mood and a soundscape to work in, to conduct a treatment in and contribute to the general tone of the environment. 

Music has always been a very personal and important choice, in both my careers to date.  I was always very responsive to it and hence my choice of music for my treatment room is not always the most easily digestable whale song.  I’ll admit that I am selfish when it comes to music.  Come on guys - you know it's not ALL ABOUT YOU.  I insist on making the right space for me to operate in as well as for the client to be in a receptive state.  So when some of my clients have commented on my ‘funereal march’ compositions, I do tend to stand by my principles that the musical selection is not ‘all about you’ but it is there to benefit you.

I have been experimenting lately with musical choices and there is a reason why there is a certain tonality and genre of music that I choose to use in my treatment space.  Even if certain of my clients delight in tampering with my ipod upon leaving the room and putting on some Kylie as they depart.  (not naming anyone Tim Brookes).  The reason I tend toward softer, gentler and at times ‘monotonous droning and delightfully dull’ selections is to bring the focus of the mind to that quiet and intimate space.  I’m listening to the body on the table.  I’m trying to engage with it and notice it, not just from a visual perspective but also from a technical perspective.  Part of that perspective involves tuning into the intricacies of each body I work upon.   I’m trying to key into the subtlety of your body and be in the best state to really focus on what your body is 'telling me'.

The other fact is that I am seeking a space and inviting you the client, to engage with your own body. We are often distracted by what is around us.  The ‘noise’ of the city is everywhere (sometimes even in the next room) and it is very easy to not take notice of what the subtler messages our bodies are sending to us.  Just as many people find when a therapist actually touches them “oh I didn’t realise that bit was sore”, so too must you bring that focus to your body and I believe that this is best achieved in a state where all distraction is removed and you are forced to listen to your breath, your heart-rate and your body rhythms (yes we do have them).  Now some of my clients may say how hard that is when I am using my bodyweight to strip a rectus femoris and they are writhing on the table screaming blue murder (I know that’s not ‘relaxing’ or ‘quiet’).  However it is important that you are in a state where you are aware of what is happening at that deeper level and perhaps really forced to key into that quiet space to be able to listen and hear what the body is telling you.  I have a certain client whom is a great chatterbox – he loves a good chin wag.  He should be a cab driver.  I delight however in finding the space about 15minutes into the treatment where he actually disengages with conversation and we find that space where he is dead quiet and listening into his body and noticing what is tight, sore, hurting, soft, and all manner of body ‘rhythms’ that otherwise would be shouted over with his largesse personality. 

So what does music have to do with this?  There has been much research into music and the tonality of music and how that has an effect on the body.  In Indian Medicine, the ‘chakras’ each have their own unique musical tone.   A musical note has vibrational qualities and many of the ancient systems of practice believe that this has an influence on how the body can be treated for good health.  Even in early western medicine, tuning forks were used on patients to effect health and determine healing.  The vibration of notes, particularly bass notes, has a corresponding value to the body and to the organs and to internal functions.  Neuro-transmitters, the super highway that connects and allows our body to communicate with itself, are very responsive to these vibrations and influences and it is logical that music has an effect on these systems.  The Limbic System is very sensitive to music and it's very real and very scientific.

Canada Pain Management Systems

There is in short, so much evidence to support the theories that music alleviates pain, decreases heart rate, decreases cortisol levels in the body and increases immunoglobin and killer cells in the body that attack bacteria and pathogens. There is much research now focussing on ‘prescribable music medicine’ that addresses the best environment for health to be maintained, particularly in regards to neurological disorders and diseases.  Particularly it is the low frequency vibrations (of around 30 hertz) that are most effective at influencing cellular changes and creating changes in the thalamus and the outer cortex of the brain.

It is highly relevant that music has been shown to affect the release of endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, and decrease cortisol levels. There is strong evidence that music has effects on brain chemistry, has mental and physical health benefits on management of mood and stress reduction, and that it is the rhythmic stimulation of music, rather than the melody, that has the greatest ‘antipain’ effect in the brain.
— Canada Pain Management Systems

This ‘disorientation of rhythmic brain activity’ is directly related to thalmocortical dysrhythmia which is particularly relevant to conditions such as Parkinson’s, fibromyalgia and Alzheimers disease. Vibroacoustic Therapy is the more common movement that is gaining influence in medical research and being applied in medical situations such as operations and trauma to ease patients and bring them to a space where the body is more readily receptive to healing and recovery after trauma.


So how does it work?  What is it that makes this frequency so important and what exactly does it do?  The research suggests that the lower vibrational frequencies work directly on the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis, which is the main mechanism for transferring messages through the body to the brain.  Vibroacoustic or Physioacoustic therapy, stimulates the mechanoreceptors in this axis and cellular structures more deeply embeded in the neurological components of the hypothalamus, thereby potentially serving to block pain transmission.  By addressing the limbic system in this way, this vibrational aspect of music can have real effects on the registering of pain within the body.

It’s all about the hypothalamus. The control tower of the brain, it regulates communication between the nervous system and the endocrine system, taking in information from the entire body, before transmitting outward again, via chemical messengers… The hypothalamus is Office in Charge of many bodily functions we tend to think of as automatic, like temperature, metabolism and nervous system, as well as pituitary secretion, affecting everything from mood to appetite to sleep. It is perhaps the single most important link in the mind-body connection.
— Donna Quesada: 10 Reasons to Chant

So you can see how the low frequency vibrations of musical notes can influence this vitally important system and how it feels or interprets pain.  These lower vibrational frequencies are a trigger to the ‘happy hormones’ of serotonin and dopamine which create the state of relaxed, content and calm emotional states.  It’s the reason why whale music made it’s way into the realms of the Contemporary Music scene – to bliss out all those hippies who were so freaked out by the world in all it’s anxiousness!  It’s scientifically proven!!!

But seriously, it makes a difference to ally all the elements to create a state that is conducive to healing and rejuvenation with treatments.  Yes not all remedial treatments are soft floaty affairs, far from it.  But with all that pushing and prodding and trying to get muscles into the right positions, wouldn’t it be more helpful if you could be a little sedated by your natural ‘happy hormones’.  I’ve heard many clients say they considered valium before coming to see me.  Well I have you covered as my ‘strange musical selection’ is meant to replace that valium (or scotch or beer) and give you that state of being more responsive to treatment. 

So next time you are lying there and contemplating why I have some Bulgarian Open Throat singing or Tibetan meditation chanting monks, be aware that I have chosen this to try and give you every opportunity to get the most from your treatment.  But I also take requests so that if you really do want to listen to Adele – I’ll be happy to oblige.









AuthorPeter Furness