Music Therapy Helps People with Parkinson’s Build Strength Through Song
Elizabeth Stegemöller arranged a circle of metal folding chairs around a piano as clients started arriving for a weekly music therapy class for people with Parkinson’s disease.
For the next hour, Stegemöller, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, will lead the class through a series of vocal exercises and songs. Singing uses the same muscles associated with swallowing and respiratory control – two functions complicated by Parkinson’s disease, which can lead to death – and Stegemöller’s research has shown singing significantly improves this muscle activity.
“We’re not trying to make them better singers, but to help them strengthen the muscles that control swallowing and respiratory function,” Stegemöller said. “We work on proper breath support, posture and how we use the muscles involved with the vocal cords, which requires them to intricately coordinate good, strong muscle activity.”
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