Music Therapy for Edema

Viola Heckel

Last update: 14.08.2019

Edema is fluid that is no longer integrated and is “deposited” in the patient’s physical organism. The fluid no longer flows along with the person’s life processes and is therefore often subject to physical laws such as pressure and gravity. The patient’s life organization is weakened. This leads to complaints such as exhaustion and weakness. Often the activity of the soul and the ‘I’ are also altered. Edema can be accompanied by tiredness and can limit self-guided movement.

This leads us to a multimodal approach to treatment that includes artistic therapy. On the level of soul, music therapy enables the patient to relax inwardly, let go of worries and become more centered. On the level of life, music therapy revitalizes, which can be experienced to the point of subjective body perceptions, such as feelings of “relief”.

Artistic therapy is particularly suitable for the treatment of prolonged edema.

Peripheral edema

In the case of cardiac edema, we need to consider the patient’s soul and spirit in our treatment. The patient’s mood is often depressive. When the patient’s sensory organization is oriented towards his neurosensory system, this leads to congestion processes, while symptoms improve when the soul releases itself from tension. Music therapy can balance anxiety and agitation and release mental tension.

  • Besides listening to music played by the therapist, preferably on a lyre,

  • patients also enjoy playing either a drone lyre tuned in chords, a pentatonic tuned kantele or a Tao lyre because of their flowing sound and uncomplicated handling. Mental tension is released, and the patient’s soul begins to resonate through the activity of listening and rhythmically playing the instrument in alternation with the therapist. This activity supports the interaction between the rhythms of breathing and pulse in a regulating and harmonizing way.

  • Playing cymbals supports this process particularly through the opening gesture made during the long phase of reverberation.

  • Singing has an even more direct effect on the patient’s breathing and stimulates the lymphatic system. Songs, freely sung melodies to the sounds of a drone lyre, and individually chosen singing therapy exercises help to reduce congestion and anxiety.
    “The flowing sound, with the melody of the song and the rhythm of the melody, goes together with an experience of great freedom.” (statement of a patient during music therapy)


Music therapy strengthens the activity of soul and spirit in the organism . Edema occurs when this activity retreats and no longer sufficiently takes hold of the body. Through music therapy, we can encourage the bodily orientation and engagement of soul and spirit, which also affects the patient’s well-being – including effects on fatigue and feeling powerless.

  • We recommend playing or listening to music, preferably lyre music.
    Contrasting musical forms of expression, such as high and low in the melody, dynamic changes, etc., can lead into a rhythmically mobile interplay of binding and loosening – like a superordinate breathing process.

  • In terms of intervals , we can stimulate an incarnating gesture in the soul and spirit by alternating between the quality of the fifth (related to the space around) and the quality of the third (experienced as being more inward within the soul). Considering that the musical scale from the base tone to the octave corresponds to the human form in an archetypal way, we can use tone sequences and melodies that span the octave space to support a holistic sense of the body via the soul.

  • Individually chosen singing therapy exercises according to the Valborg Werbeck-Svärdström School of Uncovering the Voice promote a healthy interaction within the human fourfold nature. “Singing is completely productive in itself,” Goethe wrote in his theory of sound. Thus, the process of singing itself calls forth ‘I’ activity. The self-creative power of singing is also transmitted to the listener.
    The person’s connection to their body is specifically stimulated by the formative forces inherent in consonants, while vowels primarily address the level of soul. Singing stimulates the person’s life organization, and the flowing sounds counteract congestion. Patients feel warmed up and inwardly invigorated by this treatment. During the exercises we should ensure that sufficient space be given for the sounds to reverberate. The patient and therapist sing together or the therapist sings for the patient.
    A bedridden patient, powerless with severe leg edema, expressed surprise after singing together with the therapist: “My body suddenly feels a lot lighter.”

  • Experiences of resonance can also have a supporting effect on body orientation , e.g., when the therapist places a tenor chrotta on the soles of the patient’s feet and strokes the strings, or plays a kantele, lyre or tao lyre on the patient’s feet or legs. Depending on the situation, we can include singing by the therapist or joint singing of individual tones.


Ascites often leads to a lack of appetite, a feeling of tension, and is accompanied by exhaustion and powerlessness. The weakness of the life organization expressed by this can be accompanied by tiredness and lack of strength, an indication of the limited working of soul and spirit in the organism.

Inner tension can be released, and the soul body can be supported in its activity in the metabolic system through music therapy.

  • Lyre playing and singing convey a sound quality that oscillates through the entire body into the fine layers of the musculature and counteracts feelings of tension. The focus is on receptive music therapy. Music by Bach, therapeutic compositions with rhythmically flowing melodies, as well as flowing play with a kantele or a lyre – best in connection with singing – release inner tension.
    A holistic experience of music arises, which is felt to be enlivening, as can be noted in deepened breathing and a brightened view: “There is a wave-like flow through my whole body. I feel relaxed and yet very present.” (statement of a patient after a music therapy session)

Research news

Phase IV trial: Kalium phosphoricum comp. versus placebo in irritability and nervousness 
In a new clinical study, Kalium phosphoricum comp. (KPC) versus placebo was tested in 77 patients per group. In a post-hoc analysis of intra-individual differences after 6 weeks treatment, a significant advantage of KPC vs. placebo was shown for characteristic symptoms of nervous exhaustion and nervousness (p = 0.020, p = 0.045 respectively). In both groups six adverse events (AE) were assessed as causally related to treatment (severity mild or moderate). No AE resulted in discontinuation in treatment. KPC could therefore be a beneficial treatment option for symptomatic relief of neurasthenia. The study has been published open access in Current Medical Research and Opinion

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