music therapy in palliative care

A recent study has found significant benefits associated with music therapy in terminally ill patients who are hospitalised for palliative care.


Music therapy is a complimentary medicine technique that is carried out by trained therapists in order to benefit patients’ physical and emotional well-being. Music therapy has been used in a wide variety of settings, including palliative care.

A group of researchers set out to investigate the role of music therapy, both in terms of psychological and physiological effects, in palliative care. The researchers enrolled a group of 84 patients who were hospitalised in palliative care to take part in the study. The patients were randomly assigned to either a music therapy group or a control group. As part of the music therapy group, the patients were exposed to two separate sessions of live music-based relaxation exercises. In contrast, the control group took part in verbal relaxation exercises only.

The researchers found that music therapy was superior to the control (verbal relaxation), in terms of increasing patients’ relaxation and well-being. While there was no difference between treatment groups in terms of pain reduction, there was a significant decrease in fatigue observed in the patients who took part in music therapy.

The researchers conclude that music therapy is a useful tool to improve both relaxation and well-being of patient s who are terminally ill.



Warth M, Keßler J, Hillecke TK, Bardenheuer HJ: Music therapy in palliative care—a randomized controlled trial to evaluate effects on relaxation. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2015; 112: 788–94.







Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD

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