Low Frequency Sound Treatment Promoting Physical and Emotional Relaxation

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      I have just analyzed the data collected of our qualitative pilot study:”Low Frequency Sound Treatment Promoting Physical and Emotional Relaxation among Music Students, Faculty and Staff”. The results are fascinating and we have now started writing the report/publication…

      If you have any useful references of previous research we should be aware of, that would be helpful!


      Heidi Ahonen


      Low frequency sound has many applications in medicine but the efficacy and effectiveness of low frequency sound treatment in health prevention remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to explore the perspectives and potentials of physioacoustic chair’s low frequency sound treatment when applied to daily activities amongst a sample of music students, faculty and/or staff, and to examine how participants view the benefits of the intervention for their well-being, health and health-related activities. The results show that the physioacoustic low frequency treatment added to a participants’ subjective well-being by increasing their physical and emotional relaxation level, decreasing pain and stress, and increasing emotion enrichment and concentration. The study served as a pilot, to confirm stakeholder interest and to gain information on the feasibility of a larger study.


      Low frequency sound has many applications to medicine. However, the extent to which human beings utilize and perceive low frequencies as beneficial when applied to their health prevention programs remain unknown, and the efficacy and effectiveness of low frequency sound treatment in health prevention and well-being remains unclear.

      The aim of this qualitative pilot study was to develop a clearer description of this phenomenon, based on participants’ perceptions of their low frequency sound treatment experiences. The purpose of was also to explore the perspectives and potentials of the physioacoustic low frequency sound treatment process when applied to daily activities among sample of music students, faculty and/or staff. A final objective was to determine the feasibility of administering a further, quantitative study exploring the perspectives of participants regarding the application of low frequency treatment to health.

      Research questions were: (1) What is the participants’ subjective experience concerning the low frequency treatment? (2) How participants perceive low frequency treatment to impact on their health and well-being?


      Data Collection

      Original data consisted of 11 volunteering participants: Music students (n=9), faculty/staff (n=2), males (n=2), females (n=9). The low frequency sound treatment process took place in the end of a winter semester, which is usually very stressful time for music students, faculty, and staff.

      The frequencies were delivered using the physioacoustic method (Lehikoinen, 1994, 1997, 1998). The participants were sitting on an arm chair and the physioacoustic software produced and controlled sound frequencies from its six speakers allowing the whole body to experience its effects. The software uses low frequencies, between 27-113 Hz. frequencies to cause the sound to vary about a fixed pitch (scanning). This is to ensure correct resonance frequencies. Participants sense a pulse-like sensation, a traveling sound pressure in the body that facilitates circulation (Lehikoinen, 1990). When sitting in the chair, legs, thighs, buttocks, back, shoulder, neck, and head were to be in contact with the surface of the chair at all times. Participants were instructed to close their eyes.

      Each participant received an individually selected frequencies and physioacoustic relaxation/massage programmes according to their needs (i.e. general relaxation, intensive back massage, shoulder massage). Therefore the individual session time varied between 30 min to 60 min.

      The treatment process length varied. Eight of the participants received 8 sessions during the 8 weeks period, two of the participants received 6 sessions, and one participant only 4 sessions. It was the goal that all participants would receive 8 sessions during the 8 weeks period. However, due to the time-table issues, this was not always possible. Therefore, to ensure the validity of the study the data analysis only consists data of 10 participants who received minimum of 6 sessions, once a week.

      In the beginning and in the end of the process, and in the beginning and in the end of each session participants were asked to answer structured qualitative questionnaires.

      The pre- process questionnaire included the following open-ended questions investigating participant’s physical sensations (such as tension, pain, relaxed). If they felt any tension, pain etc. they were instructed to color the attached “Body illustration” to best describe the area and to write down what they felt in that area. They were also asked to describe their emotions coming into this session. They were asked to make use of the attached “Feeling Wheel” illustration and color the applicable feelings. Participants were also asked to rate their emotional and/or physical stress level using the following 5-point scale: 0=no stress at all 1= little bit stress 2= manageable stress level 3= Elevated stress level 4=lots of stress 5=Enormous amount of stress. If they were currently experiencing stress, they were also asked to describe the source of it. Participants were also asked about their present sleep habits, and their present ability to focus and concentrate on daily routine task.

      The post-process questionnaire included many of the same topics but participants were also asked to evaluate, what effect, if any, do they feel that the process of these sessions have had on the level of stress in their life, sleeping patterns, emotions, concentration/alertness, and general well-being.? They were asked to describe any changes.

      In the beginning of each session the participants answered pre-session questionnaire and in the end of each session, the filled post-session questionnaires. Pre-session questions were same as the pre-process questions. The post-session questions also included questions about any images experienced during the session.

      During the process the music therapists conducting the treatment kept their session notes concerning the Physioacoustic programme used and its rationale, minutes, music used, and general comments (i.e. how did the participant reacted during the treatment? Bodily reactions, emotions, images, discussion topics).

      Data Analysis

      The research design of this study was based on qualitative (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000), abductive (Peirce, 1839-1914), and descriptive (Bruscia, 2005, p.81) paradigm. Phenomenology (Van Manen, 1990; Polkinghorne, 1989; Forinash & Grocke, 2005, p. 323; Wheeler, 2005;) was used as main research method to analyze the experience of the participants and the outcome of the intervention.

      Phenomenological approach allowed to focus on the richness of participants’ experience, seek to understand a situation from their own frame of reference – as experienced by them. The point of phenomenological research was to borrow participants’ experiences in order to understand the deeper meaning of it in the context of the low frequency intervention as a therapeutic tool (Van Manen, 1984 in Baker et. Al, 1992, p. 1357). NVivo qualitative software analysis program was used for the text-analysis of the structured, qualitative questionnaires. Following Van Manen’s phenomenological method (1997) the text was read several times and the statements that were particularly relevant for the phenomenon under investigation were identified and highlighted. These then became the beginning threads of the thematic analysis (Borkan, 1999).

      The following sections introduce the results of the study. They are presented as descriptive and explorative categories, not as a multiple case study. This kind of holistic description “gives the what, when, where, and how, without the whys. It is concerned with discerning what constitutes the phenomenon”(Bruscia, 2005, p. 89). For the purpose of this article, they have been linked to the mindfulness theory and… (add meaningfulness theory here…) It should be noted that it would be beyond the scope of this article to describe the entirety of this study in detail.


      Low frequency sound intervention – increased well-being in daily life – physical and emotional relaxation

      The results of this study show that low frequency sound treatment can have a positive effect for participants’ overall well-being in their daily life: “…I feel it has increased my well-being. I experienced joy in the chair…” Increased well-being includes both physical and emotional relaxation. The descriptive categories created based on participants experiences focus on physical pain and tension, emotion enrichment, stress management, and concentration skills. The results show that pain and tension decreased, sense of peace, self-reflection, and clarity increased as well as focus and alertness.

      Descriptive Categories:

      1. Increased well-being in daily life

      1.1 Physical relaxation

      1.1.1 Pain/tension management Decreased physical pain and tension

      1.2 Emotional relaxation

      1.2.1 Emotion enrichment Increased inner peace Increased self-reflection Increased clarity

      1.2.2 Stress management Decreased Stress Space to re-charge Increased coping skills

      1.2.3 Concentration skills Increased focus Increased alertness

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