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Massage Therapy and Music Therapy: Co-Treatment in Home-Based Care

Nov 05, 2018
Hospice and Palliative Care

Hospice and Home-Based Palliative teams help provide support to patients dealing with life-limiting and terminal illnesses. Two therapies proven to be effective in helping this patient population are music therapy and massage therapy. Many patients in the homecare setting have shown remarkable outcomes when the two therapies are combined.

What is massage therapy?

Massage therapy is a form of therapy that uses the gentle application of systematic touch, focusing on specific areas of the body, or the whole body, for the purpose of promoting healing and relaxation. Some of the goals of massage therapy when working with the pediatric hospice and palliative population are to reduce stress and anxiety, increase relaxation, decrease pain and muscle tension and increase blood circulation. Massage therapy can provide overall comfort and promote well-being to patients in their own homes.

What is music therapy?

Music Therapy is the evidence-based use of music interventions to address non-musical goals, by a specially trained and certified music therapist. Music therapy goals and interventions are varied. In pediatric hospice and palliative care, goals may include pain management, sensory stimulation, promoting positive interaction between the patient and his or her family, emotional expression and leaving lasting memories. Interventions may include instrument playing, singing, lyric discussion, song writing or playing musical games.

How do they work together?

Sometimes the combination of sensory stimuli offered by massage therapy and music therapy can create just the right environment to encourage a patient to engage or focus. Or it can be the perfect recipe to help reduce a patient’s pain and help them relax.

For example, a toddler patient may want to move constantly around the room and have difficulty responding to individual therapies - not making eye contact, visually tracking instruments, reaching out, or interacting with the music in any way. Due to constant movement, massage can be difficult. Co-treatment and the combination of different sensory input may help the patient’s body relax and remain in one place. Combining interventions helps the therapists and the patient reach goals.

An infant with a degenerative disease may need help relaxing his body. During co-treatments, the massage therapist can hold the patient and gently massage him while the music therapist plays quiet songs that are special to the family. The family can gather around, singing along, talking about their love for the patient. Meanwhile, the patient becomes so completely calm that his muscles relax and he falls asleep. 

During solo music therapy, an older child who has difficulty focusing may require a lot of redirection. The passive nature of massage might leave the patient in constant search of a distraction while receiving the therapy, unable to relax physically and emotionally. However, when therapies are combined, the patient can remain focused allowing his muscles to relax and tensions to decrease.   

The Nationwide Children’s Hospital Hospice and Home-Based Palliative team is an interdisciplinary team who collaborates with families to support their goals of quality of life. We appreciate our roles as music and massage therapists and seeing the great outcomes of our sessions. It has been, and always will be, an honor to be part of their care!

For more information on our family-centered approach to relieving pain and managing symptoms, click here.

Featured Expert

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Brigid Pargeon, MS, MT-BC
Hospice and Home-Based Palliative Care

Brigid Pargeon, MS, MT-BC, became a licensed massage therapist in 2006, and joined Nationwide Children’s Hospital in 2011. Brigid has worked on many inpatient units, and is currently serving the CTICU. She also became the massage therapist on the Hospice and Home-Based Palliative team in January, 2017, and loves both positions..

NCH Blog Author
Jessica Bogacik, MS, MT-BC
Hospice and Home-Based Palliative Care

Jessica Bogacik, MS, MT-BC is a board-certified music therapist and works on Nationwide Children's Hospital’s home-based hospice and palliative care team. Jessica’s experience as a music therapist is varied, including work with the elderly, medically and psychiatrically hospitalized adults, children with disabilities, and individuals receiving hospice care.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.