Alongside moisturizers and medications, many people integrate lifestyle interventions, such as music therapy, into their eczema treatment plan. Music therapy uses a music-based approach to improve physical, mental, and emotional health.

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that causes dryness, itchiness, and irritation. Although some cases may improve or resolve over time, eczema is a chronic condition, meaning that the symptoms can flare up at any time.

The chronic nature of eczema can be stressful, and the physical and emotional effects of the symptoms can significantly affect a person’s mental health. As a result, the condition may sometimes lead to anger, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

This article discusses the possible role of music therapy in eczema treatment and provides tips for integrating music into an eczema treatment plan.

Researchers have investigated the benefits of music therapy in a wide variety of medical conditions, but there is only limited work on its use in eczema.

A 2020 study looked at the effects of structured music listening on chronic itchiness. The researchers randomly assigned 50 people with skin conditions that caused chronic itchiness — including 14 people with eczema — to either participate in a music listening program or receive standard topical therapy.

They found that the participants who received the music intervention reported greater reductions in itch intensity than those who received the topical therapy.

It is important to note that this study looked at only a single session of music listening and that it is not clear whether this type of intervention can provide long-term relief. However, the findings do suggest that people with eczema may benefit from adding music therapy to their treatment plan.

People with eczema may also experience emotional relief from music therapy. According to a 2017 survey by the National Eczema Association, nearly one-third of people with atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema, have received a diagnosis of anxiety or depression.

Analyses of multiple studies have found that the addition of music therapy to standard treatment plans can help reduce symptoms of both anxiety and depression.

Therefore, in addition to supporting physical health in people with eczema, music therapy may promote mental and emotional well-being.

Music therapy is a holistic approach that aims to treat not only the underlying biology of disease but also the psychological and social impact.

During an initial music therapy appointment, the therapist will likely begin by talking with a person about their needs, mental health, and music preferences and abilities. They will also discuss any other topics that can guide the therapeutic process. After determining a suitable treatment plan, the therapist may use a variety of methods to incorporate music.

Music therapy can include:

  • listening to music
  • talking about music and lyrics
  • composing music and lyrics
  • playing musical instruments
  • singing or dancing to music
  • drawing or writing in response to music

Receptive music therapy uses listening to different types of music to promote relaxation and self-examination. It can also help control physical responses, such as heart rate, brain activity, and even immune activity.

In an older study from 2001, participation in a group drumming activity resulted in changes in measures of immune cell activity. Although the study did not focus on eczema, the findings may be relevant given the inflammatory nature of the disease.

Active music therapy, which may involve singing or playing an instrument, often requires people to improvise. The aim of improvisation is to access emotions and improve emotional awareness.

Depending on an individual’s needs, a typical music therapy session may include one or a combination of any of these types of therapies.

The American Music Therapy Association describes music therapy as “an evidence-based health profession with a strong research foundation.”

Anyone who is interested in integrating music therapy into their eczema treatment plan should work with a music therapist for the best results.

An older study from 2003 recruited people with eczema and a latex allergy. The researchers found that listening to Mozart reduced latex-induced allergy responses and measures of inflammation known to play a role in the allergic response. Listening to Beethoven, however, had no effect.

The results of this study illustrate the importance of working with an accredited music therapist who understands the relationship between psychology, medication, and music.

Some dermatologists or primary care physicians (PCPs) may be able to provide a referral for a music therapist. The Certification Board for Music Therapists also provides a register of approved music therapy providers.

Some health insurance companies provide coverage for music therapy, usually on a case-by-case basis. This often requires a prescription for creative therapy from a PCP who is familiar with the individual’s medical history.

Although studies in the eczema setting are limited, research suggests that music therapy may provide physical and emotional relief for people living with eczema.

If a person finds that music reduces stress, distracts from scratching, and improves well-being, there is no harm in incorporating music into their daily routine on their own. If they notice a significant improvement in their symptoms, they can share that information with their dermatologist. The dermatologist may recommend trying a more structured form of music therapy.

People with eczema who are interested in adding music therapy to their current treatment plan can talk with a dermatologist or PCP if they need a referral to or recommendation for a music therapist.