Functionality or aesthetics? A pilot study of music therapy in the treatment of multiple sclerosis patients

D Aldridge 1W SchmidM KaederC SchmidtT Ostermann

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  • PMID: 15907675


Introduction: Neuro-degenerative diseases are, and will remain, an enormous public health problem. Interventions that could delay disease onset even modestly will have a major public health impact. The aim of this study is to see which components of the illness are responsive to change when treated with music therapy in contrast to a group of patients receiving standard medical treatment alone.

Material and methods: Twenty multiple sclerosis patients (14 female, 6 male) were involved in the study, their ages ranging from 29 to 47 years. Ten participants formed the therapy group, and 10 the matched control group matched by age, gender and the standard neurological classification scheme Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS). Exclusion criteria were pregnancy and mental disorders requiring medication. Patients in the therapy group received three blocks of music therapy in single sessions over the course of the one-year project (8-10 sessions, respectively). Measurements were taken before therapy began (U1), and subsequently every three months (U2-U4) and within a 6-month follow-up without music therapy (U5) after the last consultation. Test battery included indicators of clinical depression and anxiety (Beck Depression Inventory and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale), a self-acceptance scale (SESA) and a life quality assessment (Hamburg Quality of Life Questionnaire in Multiple Sclerosis). In addition, data were collected on cognitive (MSFC) and functional (EDSS) parameters.

Results: There was no significant difference between the music-therapy treatment group and the control group. However, the effect size statistics comparing both groups show a medium effect size on the scales measuring self-esteem (d, 0.5423), depression HAD-D (d, 0.63) and anxiety HAD-A (d, 0.63). Significant improvements were found for the therapy group over time (U1-U4) in the scale values of self-esteem, depression and anxiety. In the follow-up, scale values for fatigue, anxiety and self-esteem worsen within the group treated with music therapy.

Discussion: A therapeutic concept for multiple sclerosis, which includes music therapy, brings an improvement in mood, fatigue and self-acceptance. When music therapy is removed, then scale scores worsen and this appears to intimate that music therapy has an influence.