Immunity is positively affected by drum circles, which have been part of healing ceremonies since ancient times.
Why Should a Cancer Survivor Consider Participation in a Drumming Circle?
While drum circles are gaining increased interest as an integrative approach, very limited scientific data detailing biological benefits associated with drumming activity exists, especially where cancer survivors have been research participants.
A recent systematic review by Fancourt, Ockelford, and Belai (2014) points to the central role of stress pathways in coupling music to an immune response. According to a review by Fancourt et al. (2014) a group drumming intervention had positive effects on the dehydroepiandrosterone-to-cortisol (DHEA/Cort) ratio. The same group showed an increase of natural killer cells (NK) activity.
Fancourt et al. (2014) also report one study that established increasing CD4+ T cell counts among older adults who participated in group drumming workshops. In that group, lymphocyte and memory T cell counts increased as well. The study also showed a decrease in interleukin-6 during group drumming exercises.
Drumming a Complex Intervention
Drumming is a complex intervention with conceivable modulation of neuroendocrine and neuroimmune parameters.
Please keep in mind that it would be naïve and irrational to attempt to recreate traditional music-healing rituals in modem healthcare settings involving patients from an entirely different culture. All too often “shamanic” practices involving drumming groups for specific therapeutic purposes find themselves into modem culture in ways that are often quite inappropriate for the context (Moreno, 1995).
Board certified music therapists have the needed expertise in the clinical applications of music in therapy in contemporary institutional settings. A music therapist conceptualizes the transition from the use of music in a traditional ritual to its practical adaptations in modem healthcare for its intended benefits (Moreno, 1995).
Bittman, B. B., Berk, L. S., Felten, D. L., Westengard, J., Simonton, C. O., Pappas, J., & Ninehouser, M. (2001). Composite effects of group drumming music therapy on modulation of neuroendocrine-immune parameters in normal subjects. Alternative Therapies, 7(1), 38–47.
Fancourt, D., Ockelford, A., & Belai, A. (2014). The psychoneuroimmunological effects of music: A systematic review and a new model. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 36, 15–26. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2013.10.014
Koyama, M., Wachi, M., Utsuyama, M., Bittman, B., Hirokawa, K., & Kitagawa, M. (2009). Recreational music-making modulates immunological responses and mood states in older adults. Journal of Medical and Dental Sciences, 56(2), 79–90.
Moreno, J. J. (1995). Ethnomusic therapy: An interdisciplinary approach to music and healing. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 22(4), 329–338. doi:10.1016/0197-4556(95)00039-8