Two Ways to Relax During Chemotherapy: Monochord Therapy & Muscle Relaxation

Patient Receiving Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a stressful experience for many cancer patients.

The greatest sources of stress? Potential side effects, nervousness about the appointment and not knowing what to expect.

Some patients even develop anticipatory sickness. These patients become physically ill before they even arrive at the chemotherapy center because their brain associates the procedure with nausea and vomiting.

To make their appointments less stressful, some patients turn to natural relaxation methods rather than anti-anxiety medications.

Oncologists often recommend deep breathing, visualization methods, distraction techniques and even meditation for chemotherapy patients. Patients can also bring soothing aromatherapy products with them to the appointment or stimulate reflexology points associated with relaxation during their infusion.

Choosing one of these methods is often a matter of personal preference. What works for some patients does not work for others.

However, a recent study in the December issue of Complementary Therapies in Medicine took a look at the effectiveness of two relaxation therapies: music therapy with monochord sounds and progressive muscle relaxation.

Patients who participated in either of these therapies showed improvements in their physical and psychological state, as well as lower levels of anxiety. Music therapy also reduced alpha band activity in the brain.

Monochord Therapy

Music therapy may involve either creating or listening to music. For the purposes of this study, however, music therapy referred to listening to music from a single-stringed instrument called a monochord.

Monochord therapy is also occasionally referred to as monochord vibrational healing. When a musician plays the monochord, it releases vibrations into the air. Pythagoras developed a healing regimen with these vibrations several thousand years ago.

As the vibrations sink into the patient’s body, they initiate internal healing mechanisms. The soothing noise of the instrument may also help patients focus on something other than the anxiety-inducing therapy.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

The other group of patients in the study used progressive muscle relaxation to de-stress during chemotherapy.

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a technique commonly used in counseling sessions. It is a very simple technique that can override the body’s natural “fight or flight” inclination and replace it with a relaxation response. The process ultimately releases the tension that the body is storing up in each muscle.

Patients can perform progressive muscle relaxation independently, or they can use a guided audio tape. The therapy can last as long – or be over as quickly – as the patient desires. Typical guidelines recommend spending at least 10 seconds with each muscle group, but patients can repeat the cycles until they feel calmer and more relaxed.

Have you tried either of this methods? Is there a topic you would like me to discuss? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook.


After graduating with an English degree from Southeastern University in 2010, Faith Franz came on board as a health and wellness writer for The Mesothelioma Center.

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