BENEFITS OF VIBROACUSTIC THERAPY
Vibroacoustic therapy and sound bed practice
ABSTRACT: The article introduces the idea of vibroacoustic therapy (VAT) and it's benefits, to open the possibility for a better understanding of its theory and practice. As the research is getting more abundant on the subject and the interdisciplinary experience wider, there are more results, and more understanding of the theory of the VAT, and we can lay down the facts that underline the benefits it conveys. These benefits, being proved scientifically are easier to institutionalize, and from there we are able to offer it to a greater number of clients. The tremendous benefits of these invisible waves – the low frequencies of sound waves are manyfold: it helps in decreasing pain, releasing endorphins, enhancing energy, which in turn reduces fatigue, it improves inner balance, enhances focus, which leads to improved memory function, brings progressive and total relaxation, improves sleeping patterns, calms respiratory and breathing, lessens anxiety, acts as a prolonged stress relief improves digestion, relieves of nausea, reduces depression, reduces the aggression, improves blood circulation, even helps in removing the molecular waste product resulting from activity in the nerve cells through a diffusion process (Punkanen, Ala-Ruona, 2012.). The positive effects are countless, and some of them we can experience on sound bed, the instrument and tool of music therapy. The sound bed functions only on the basis of naturally produced vibrations of sound that enters the body as a soundbox and resonates with the body as a medium that absorbs the soundwaves - the vibrations at certain frequencies. The difference between the two is based on the creation of the sounds and the moderator: in vibroacoustic treatment the computer is a controller, and in the sound bed the music therapist; further, the frequencies of the two are differently produced and hence sound differently (computer sound/strings). The research on the vibroacoustics is made on the computer-generated treatments and electrically based wave vibrations.
Of Vibroaccoustic therapy and sound bed
Vibroacoustic therapy (VAT), traditionally considered to be a physical and receptive type of music therapy intervention, uses pulsed, sinusoidal, low-frequency sound on a specially designed bed or chair. Today VAT is viewed as a multimodal approach, whereby the therapist works with the client’s physiological and psychological experiences, incorporating a mind–body approach. (Punkanen, Ala-Ruona, 2012.)
The sound bed or flat monochord is used as a tool in sound therapy and music therapy. The bed is 2 meters long with the stable construction, with the top surface being laid in slight concave giving a laying body comfortability and a feeling of being safely held. There really is a feeling of being held by somebody, since the music – sound and vibrations - are traveling through you in a manner that could only be supposed that a child senses inside his mother's womb.
The person lying on the sound bed is accompanied by a music therapist who plays on the strings of the instrument placed on the bottom of the bed box – under the body. There are few designs of the sound bed, and the possibilities of placing the strings on the sides of the bed, but this one with the strings under the bed is most common. The strings are divided at 165 cm by a bridge at tone G from one side of the bridge and the 2 octaves higher on the other side of the bridge. The strings could be tuned at the same tone or to a harmonious chords like G,g (higher octave) and D; or G, D, B. The additional tuning is made by bridges. Number of strings is usually over 50, but you will be able to find it with as little as 20 strings.
Often, the therapist will play drums, Tibetan or Crystal bowls. Tuning forks and other instruments whose vibration the body can contain and whose vibrations are equivalent to tones and waves of vibrating instruments used in the specific session. Because of its interdisciplinarity, the sound bed is also used in sound massage, singing bowl therapy, sound healing, psychotherapy, sound-led trance work, voice training, shamanistic work, trauma therapy, accompanying the dying, sound meditation, and physiotherapy.
The session itself can last between 10 – 30 minutes and as it is often pointed out by the practitioners at the Assosiation of Sound Therapy in UK, the avarage and just right time of the session which is intuitive and not timed, is cca. 20 minutes.
The difference between the soundbed and the vibroacousti bed is significant in its musical quality, since here the strings are making acoustic and melodic sounds, opposite of specific electronic sound of the vibroacoustic bed. The specific frequences are manualy tuned and the sounds are used in cobination with other instrument's vibration as explained above.
The application of sound for mental healing has been used in treatments in different cultures throughout history. Popular in the eastern side of the world, the purpose of this technique was to create sounds with low vibrations, usually produced by an instrument or human vocals, to improve physical and mental health. The first known people to use this method were the Aborigines, a tribal group from Australia known for their unique markings and strange customs. Using a yidaki, also known as a didgeridoo, a traditional man-made instrument, in which one blows air in to produce low vibrations, Aboriginal healers would create sounds to tend to ill tribal members. Not only did these sounds repair broken bones and muscle tears, but the sounds also stabilized individuals who were mentally ill, soothing their minds and internal flow. Many modern sound healing equipment emulates the style and vibrations of the yidaki in an attempt to assist sick patients. While not advance in technology, the purpose of the yidaki is similar to those of modern devices which is the use of sound to place patients in a calm state to initiate recovery.
In India the sound bed has been used in therapeutic healing for centuries. The instruments like tampura, used as a background „wash-out“ vibroacoustic base and solo instruments like vina are just a taste of this ancient tradition using the vibration of voice (dhrupad) and strings to create a deep meditative zone.
In ancient Egypt, it was believed that vowels were significantly powerful and sacred. For this reason, they were usually chanted by priests for prayer and healing. During that period of time, Egyptian priestesses would use a sistra, a type of musical rattle with metal discs. While performing healing rituals, this instrument would be accompanied by the harp and played in reverberant chapels or burial chambers to amplify the sounds. Not only did this rattle produce pleasing jangling sounds, but it also generated sufficient amounts of ultrasound, a product that currently benefits modern hospitals and clinics as a potent healing modality.
During the Greco-Roman period, sound and music are used therapeutically to soothe the psyche and reduce anger and aggression. Many of the healing temples functioned as incubations, a process in which patients underwent dream sleep during their stay. The reverberant spaces and calm setting allowed vibrations to have a maximum effect on the body.
The vibroacoustic experimentation in newer history was developed by Skille and Alvin in 1968. in Norwegia „in an attempt to envision possible development of the theory and practice of vibroacoustic therapy treatment within a traditional music therapy practice.“ (Punkanen, Ala-Ruona, 2012, pg. 129)
Olav Skille, educator and therapist, developed the first vibroacoustic sound chair in the late 1980-ties for treating children with physical and mental disabilities (Boyd-Brewer, C., 2003). His results urged additional research, and since then there have been case studies and researches suggesting this therapy induces muscle tones, reduces spasms, pain, and anxiety.
Tony Wigram, another pioneer in vibroacousitc therapy used the music with the low-frequency sounds he called vibroacoustic music. Skille used one tone, modulated, sinusoidal sound. That time in the history of the music was the dawn of electroacoustic music, which had an influence on the vibroacoustic practice and vice versa. However, in clinical practice the VAT is a combination of low-frequency sound vibration, listening to music and therapeutic intervention that influences the client's emotional, cognitive, social, and physiological issues (Punkanen, Ala-Ruona, 2012).
Music can be used as a motivation tool in vibroacoustic therapy, since the pleasure it evokes gives another color to the treatment. Music and vibration together are much more powerful than any of those working alone, and they are more pleasureful then many other invasive medical treatments. There will be music composed especially for VAT treatment, be it an addition to low frequencies or as a primary stimulus (Boyd-Brewer, C., 2003).
Effect on the body
Vibroacoustic sound bed emits low-frequency vibroacoustic sound waves that assist in mental and physical symptoms like:
- decreasing pain,
- releasing endorphins,
- Enhanced energy > Reduced fatigue,
- Improvements with inner balance,
- Enhanced focus leading to improved memory function,
- Progressive and total relaxation,
- Improved sleep,
- Calms respiratory and breathing,
- Lessens anxiety,
- Stress relief,
- Improved digestion,
- Reduced depression,
- Improved blood circulation,
- Decreased blood pressure,
- improving overall mobility,
- enhancing one's sense of vitality. and quality of life.
On the other hand, the sound bed's purely acoustic „sound experience of the complex harmony and the physical perception of the vibrations have a directly stimulating effect on the body.“ (http://saitenart.ch/sound-bed/index.en.html)
The effect is considerably more intense due to the relaxed posture of the body but also because most of the body is in touch with the instrument and it starts to function as a resonating box itself.
After a treatment in the lying position many people feel as if they are carrying the sound in their bodies many hours later.
Some people have inner visions during the treatment, others experience the feeling of the opening up of boundless freedom, beyond thought, and others come into contact with long-forgotten memories, maybe pleasant or not so pleasant…
The experiences reported by therapists and sound-travelers are very
varied and impressive. Some people speak of feeling their physical boundaries melting, discovering complete relaxation, or reaching the deep emotional levels... (quoted from http://monochord-soundmassage.com/index.php?soundbed)
But what really happens in the body?
VAT sound bed and treatment emits low frequency sound waves that travel through a medium (soundbox, body, air). The frequencies are 20-100 HZ which resonates at the rate of 20-100 times per second creates resonance in our body. When the frequency of VAT matches the natural frequency of the body – the body resonates, which increases the blood circulation, enhances the metabolism, releases the tension of the muscle or other spasms, activates oxytocin production. Another benefit of VAT is the sensation of the Pacinian corpuscles, a vibration receptor, which is sensitive to the pressure of 60 HZ and up. The Pacinian corpuscles communicate with brain, sending the „non-pain“ message which inhibits the pain impulse. It also participates in action with the Meissner corpuscles, another vibration receptor. The Aß nerve fibers, that transmit the information from Meissner and Pacinian corpuscles and other receptors in the skin, stimulate the neurons in the spinal cord that are reducing the amount of pain signals sent from the skin (Melzack and Wall, gate control theory of pain) (Punkanen, Ala-Ruona, 2012).
Another benefit promoted by the Jindrak and Jindrak, „vibration can assist in removing some of the molecules, which are a waste product resulting from activity in the nerve cells, through a diffusion process.“ (Punkanen, Ala-Ruona, 2012.)
Science behind the practice
Evidence-based research has proven that music, sound, and vibration assist in the healing processes of body and mind. A combination of music and vibration, researches prove, can improve cellular health. Therefore it is used in conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Lyme Disease, tremors, disbalance, and pain undergoing Chemotherapy treatments, neurological symptoms of body tissues, nerves and muscle tonus issues, radiation or fertility treatments. Research has also shown that treatments help improve symptoms associated with asthma and other respiratory diseases.
Harmonious sounds arrange molecules in the body in a perfect pattern. Sound waves protrude into the body tissue all the way down to the cell structure, mechanically removing the cells foreign to the body, like cancer cells.
With this knowledge in mind, it's hard to ignore the possibility to implant music therapy, vibroacustic and sound therapy to our medical practice.
The vibroacustic therapy, then, can be used as a tool to heal and improve the physical conditions, be it wound or pain. The body, always in movement, uses the energy at the cellular level. „The micro vibrations produced from the cells essentially retrieve energy and are involved in immunologic reactions. These biological occurrences produce rapid vibration in the body that will gradually decrease in speed after injury, intense physical stress, long-term fatigue, and time. The aim of vibroacoustic therapy is to restore the cellular energy lost over time, thus improving the overall health of the patient. The main claim is that vibration of sound increases cellular movement, which will contribute to the improvement of the body.“ (Yoshihisa, Hoshitani, Tabata, Seki, Nishimura, and Kano, 2012, pg. 2).
The experiments acknowledged the effect and the importance of vibrations in treatment of elderly at the Elderly Nursing Home, Japan. Researchers found that the subjects had a greater impact and result in physical improvement on muscles with vibroacoustic treatment than in case of applying only music as treatment (Yoshihisa, Koike, Hoshitani, Tabata, Seki, Nishimura, and Kano, 2012)
Dr. George Patrick, as a chief of recreation therapy in the Rehabilitation Medicine Department Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) led a program of relaxation for pain and symptom-reduction to investigate the effects vibroacoustic therapy had on patients with various medical conditions. 272 patients with different diagnoses from “cancer, heart, lung, and blood disorders, infectious diseases, mood disorders, and miscellaneous conditions” took part in the research led in the Center. He determined that a 22-minutes session resulted in a “cumulative reduction of pain and symptoms by 53%” (Patrick, 1999.). Even more, the symptoms not in focus like tension, fatigue, pain, headache, and nausea were also reduced after the therapy.
A later study, led by Boyd-Brewer, came to the same conclusions with the different group of symptoms. The research consisted of 41 patients going through chemotherapy treatment at Florida’s Jupiter Medical Center in Palm Beach County. Boyd-Brewer concluded that vibroacoustic therapy reduced pain and symptoms (Boyd-Brewer; McCaffrey, 2004).
Another study took 40 patients with the gonarthrosis, a degenerative disease on the articular cartilage also with the aim to prove the effectiveness of the vibroacoustic therapy, combining vibroacoustic therapy with ultrasounds and cryotherapy. were subjected to 20 vibroacoustic therapy procedures, each lasting 20 minutes, twice a day (morning and evening), performed in the joint area affected by the disease, as well as in the lumbar spine area. Cryotherapy procedures were carried out using carbon dioxide vapor on the affected joint area, and lasted 3 minutes. Sonotherapy (ultrasounds) was conducted in 3-minute sessions Therapeutic efficacy was higher than when using those methods on an exclusive basis. (Zawiślak, Turmiński, Sokołowski, Latosiewicz, Majcher, 2016.). Again, in another research aiming to prove the vibroacoustic therapy being successfull with the gonarthrosis, where the measurements were carried out before and after the treatment, results showed the reduction of pain which complied with the reduction in the circumference of joint in 91% of patients! (Dervil, 2015.) Because of the positive effects of vibroacoustic therapy on patients with this chronic disorder, it may become a future approach for treatment and recovery for individuals with gonarthrosis.
Another population that is benefiting more and more from vibroacoustic and sound treatment are persons with developmental disorders and challenging behaviors. The autistic spectrum offers a wide range of symptoms and one of them is self-aggression, but it can be also destructive aggression, stereotypical and aggressive. The anxiety levels at this population are also higher than in the general population. Using information from previous studies, the team of researchers wanted to apply this therapy to patients with these aggressive behaviors, hoping for the beneficiary effect. Counting on the relaxing quality of music to reduce aggressive and chaotic behaviors in the patients, in the Centre for Rehabilitation Research, University Hospital, Department of Behavioural, Social, and Legal Sciences, O¨rebro; Sweden Centre for Adult Habilitation, County Council, O¨rebro, Sweden the research was planned in which they used low-frequency sound vibrations with the patient lying on a bed or chair with built-in speakers, allowing the individual to listen and physically feel the sounds from the device. Researchers made an experiment that systematically investigated the proposed effects of vibroacoustic therapy on patients with developmental disorders and challenging behaviors. 20 subjects with autism spectrum disorders and developmental disabilities, conditions known to be behaviorally aggressive, were divided randomly to two groups. For five weeks, the first group received daily music treatment that consisted of ten through twenty-minute vibroacoustic therapy sessions. Then the second group underwent a similar procedure for the next five weeks. The observers recorded each participant’s progress using the Behavior Problems Inventory before the treatment, after the treatment, and once again after a period of time. Using videotapes as a form of qualitative data, the researchers used tapes to analyze the effects of the sessions minute by minute, focusing mainly on the specific behavior problems and their frequency during the experiment. The results of the study concluded that “vibroacoustic music reduced challenging behavior in individuals with ASD and developmental disability” (Lundqvist, Andersson, Viding, 2008.).
Evaluations from BPI ratings, behavior observation analyses, and assistants’ ratings all showed that common traits of the disorder decrease after the subjects partook in the therapy. These findings of this study are consistent with the claim that music combined with vibrations has a relaxing effect that relieves anxiety and discomfort. Although the reason for effects of vibroacoustic music to patients with challenging behavior is unknown, researchers from the Center for Rehabilitation Research and the Center for Adult Habilitation agree that the process is an effective procedure in reducing disruptive and negative actions. (Lundqvist, Andersson, Viding, 2008.).
Effects of Vibroacoustic Therapy on Elderly Nursing Home Residents at Geriatric Health Service Facility, Kiryuuen, Japan with Depression was examined in research that started from the statistics showing a high correlation between depression and death for individuals living in nursing homes, thus raising concerns and demands for a solution to this issue. The study has been designed to investigate whether vibroacoustic therapy would reduce the rate of chronic depression on the elderly in nursing homes. Fifteen elderly residents with an average of 86 years of age were selected to participate in the study. Each subject showed psychological symptoms of depression. “For two consecutive weeks, the participants received 30-minutes vibroacoustic therapy sessions Monday to Friday” (Yoshihisa Koike, PhD, OTR1), Mitsuyo Hoshitani, OTR2), Yukie Tabata, OTR1), Kazuhiko Seki, Reiko Nishimura, MS, OTR1), Yoshio Kano, MD4)). Classical music accompanied by low vibrations produced in mattress-like devices. For each patient, researchers recorded his or her psychological state before and after the treatment.
After the experiment, researchers saw a significant psychological improvement in the subjects. Each elderly had a reduction of depression and an increase in nighttime sleep efficiency. Results showed that the sessions reduced the heart rate of the nursing home residents and that the therapy-induced parasympathetic system effects, a bodily process that occurs during periods of relaxation. An estimated 80% of depressed individuals claim to have abnormal changes in sleep patterns. Two common sleep disorders being insomnia and hypersomnia. During the study, researchers saw that the total sleep duration of the participants significantly decreased after the vibroacoustic session, but the night time sleep efficiency was unaffected. Consequently, subjects were more prone to having consistent wake times after the therapy.
These results suggest that a reduction in depression increases the wake time in the daytime, making the sleeping patterns regular and improving the quality of life emotionally and physically.
The study concluded that vibroacoustic therapy reduced depression and increased relaxation in elderly living in nursing homes.
Vibroacoustic sound therapy in its historical and modern time use has proven to have significant results benefitting human health both physiologically and mentally.
In the last 20 years, the increase in research on the vibroacoustics has helped to raise the awarenes on the subject even though the majority of the population is still sceptic. The research shows that the low vibrations increase cellular movement, thus increasing energy and cellular regeneration in the body. Consequently, inflammation and pain are reduced.
There are more and more researches investigating the possibility of removing the cancer cells non-aggressively, with help of the vibroacoustic treatment.
With the addition of music, patients are prone to have an increase in relaxation and dicrease in psychological disturbances such as depression, anxiety, and nausea.
Furthermore, it was proven that individuals with behavioral unstability and autism,who were subjected to vibroacoustic treatment have decrease in aggressive outbursts and encounters.
Vibroacoustic therapy lacks a multitude of studies and experimental results to confirm it is an effective approach for individuals’ health. Also, the specific group sample makes it difficult to generalize the results to other patients.
Still, the results that were collected through the years of studies cannot be ignored, and more and more researches are following the older ones seeking to update and improve the conclusions, and bring more information to the public ear.
If these results are consistent in future studies, vibroacoustic therapy can replace pharmaceuticals and eliminate the potential negative side-effects of the medicaments, since the vibroacoustic does not have any.
You will be able to say freely then that you are enjoying your therapy with all your body and soul!
- Boyd-Brewer, C. (2003.) Vibroacoustic Therapy: Sound Vibrations in Medicine. Alternative and Complementary Therapies 9 (5): 257-63.
- 2. Boyd-Brewer, C. & McCaffrey, R. (2004.) Vibroacoustic Sound Therapy Improves Pain Management and More. Holistic Nursing Practice 18 (3): 111-8.
- 3. Dervil, T., (2015.) The Effectiveness of Vibroacoustic Sound Therapy in Medicine, Soundscapes: artistic, social, and biological approaches to sonic environments (https://sites.duke.edu/soundscapes/2015/12/04/the-effectiveness-of-vibroacoustic-sound-therapy-in-medicine/ on 12.08. 2019.)
- 4. Lundqvist, L., Andersson, G., & Viding, J. (2008.) Effects of Vibroacoustic Music on Challenging Behaviors in Individuals with Autism and Developmental Disabilities. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders 3 (2): 390-400.
- 5. Patrick, G., (1999.) The Effects of Vibroacoustic Music on Symptom Reduction. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Magazine 18 (2): 97-100.
- 6. Punkanen, M. & Ala-Ruona, E. (2012.) Contemporary Vibroacoustic Therapy: Perspectives on Clinical Practice, Research, and Training. Music & Medicine 4 (3): 128-35.
- 7. Yoshihisa, K., Hoshitani M., Tabata, Y., Seki, K., Nishimura R., & Kano, Y. (2012.) Effects of Vibroacoustic Therapy on Elderly Nursing Home Residents with Depression, Journal Of Physical Therapy Science 24, no. 3: 291-294 4p.
- 8. Zawiślak, Tomasz; Turmiński, Piotr; Sokołowski, Krysztof; Latosiewicz, Robert; Majcher, Piotr; An assessment of the efficacy of degenerative knee joint disease treatment using vibroacoustic therapy, European Journal of Medical Technologies 2016; 2(11): 37-42; 2016.