Music and therapy: movement, physiotherapy and rehabilitation.

Listening to music can influence the way we move. Playing music makes us move.  This unique auditory-motor interplay between perception and action can provide a valuable neurological  substrate  in neuro-rehabilitation and Physiotherapy.

Studies have shown (Lahav, 2009 – Harvard Medical School) that using active music therapy – engaging patients in the act of music or sound creation – can be a positive asset in the treatment of people with neuromuscular disorders.  The problem facing therapists is that patients suffering from neuromuscular disorders may not have the physical coordination or strength to be able to play more traditional instruments. In addition, traditional acoustic instruments may present a health risk to the patient due their form or material (physical size, sharp edges, corners or fine metal strings).

acoustic instruments can be tricky
Traditional instruments present physical challenges

Therefore, finding different ways to provide audio, tactile and visual feedback can be of great benefit to those working in this area. Particularly if you can engage all 3 in active music making, as this improves the richness of sensory feedback and stimulation received by the patient.

Using music to augment  and enrich physiotherapy can be quite diverse.  Musical feedback can range from a single note, or the manipulation of the dynamic properties of a sound, to the playing of a phrase or entire piece of music favored by the client depending on the therapeutic goal of the exercise.  The music or sound can act as feedback and reward for the patient, either accompanying the movement to help assist and encourage or only occurring when the patient’s movements satisfy certain success criteria.

There are a range of new and old technologies that offer therapists a diverse range of opportunities for including sound and music in their sessions.  But those that offer a higher degree of contingency between the movements being made and the sound being produced or controlled will provide a wider range of options in relation to therapy.  The real benefit of using technology based instruments is the versatility and adaptability of the interfaces and content to suit the client or activity.


There are now a wealth of app-based music and sound generation programmes that work on all kinds of portable devices.  The use of a smart phone based app makes sense as many clients will have their own device meaning that they may well be able to continue with their exercises and practice without the therapist being there.

An example that uses the gyroscope inside the iPhone is Soundwand – this can be used stimulate wrist motions similar to handle turning etc.

Doug Bott and the rest of the Drake music team have put together a useful listing of music / sound apps here.

A tactile musical experience
A tactile musical experience

Find out how to get the most ‘physically’ from your Skoog and download a handy sheet for physio tips here.