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Music therapy helps Ashland woman cope with pain: 'Music is for everyone. It's a universal language'

September is Pain Awareness Month
Posted at 6:39 AM, Sep 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-25 06:39:05-04

ASHLAND, Ohio — September is Pain Awareness Month, and for one Northeast Ohio woman living with chronic pain, music therapy has helped change her daily experience.

Tamara Welan of Ashland was thrown from her motorcycle in an accident in July 2016.

“I landed on my hip. The cartilage came off the bone in the ankle,” Welan said. “I’ve had a couple of surgeries and I cannot return to what I used to do before. So there's just been a myriad of losses there, dealing with all of that. I’m better than I was for sure. But it's a journey.”

Welan went to a pain clinic at University Hospitals Samaritan Medical Center in Ashland, where she said they suggested she get some kind of therapy. She chose music, because she’s a musician, having played the guitar since she was 12.

Music “just can access your emotions, I think in a way that maybe even talking doesn’t,” Welan said. “I had tried the talk therapies before, but I think music because music by nature is question-and-answer, so question-and-answer equals resolve. So there was almost like a resolve of it all on an emotional level that maybe might be difficult to sometimes articulate.”

In addition to seeing a reduction in her pain during her weekly sessions, Welan has learned strategies to bring home with her to practice on her own time.

Angel Foss with the University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network is Welan’s music therapist. They’ve worked together for about 18 months.

Foss, who works in both inpatient and outpatient settings, as well as in community programs, said music therapy is a way for people to manage their stress and relax, in addition to reducing pain.

Foss said music can help someone refocus on something positive other than pain.

“Music's cathartic. It allows for self-expression,” Foss said.

And, she said, it’s supportive.

“The therapeutic relationship that we have, the trust that we've built and that kind of thing, I know that that also happens in other therapies,” Foss said. “But there's something about the relationship between the patient or client, the therapist and the music that makes that triangle that's really, really powerful.”

Of Welan, Foss said, “She's a musician and has been a musician for many years, so it's not like she wasn't playing. But this is giving her kind of a purpose to the playing and also making her look at her playing a little differently, and realizing that, ‘Hey, this is a tool that I can use therapeutically to help me through this.’”

Welan said she would encourage anyone dealing with chronic pain to consider music therapy, whether or not they’re a musician.

“Music is for everyone. It's a universal language and it's a great outlet,” Welan said. “It's helped me to cope with the changes that are going on physiologically, also emotionally. So I'm thankful very much for the program, and to be a part of it.”

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