Long-Term Music Therapy Improves Gait Disorders in Patients With Multiple Sclerosis

Music therapy via rhythmic auditory strategy and dance strategy effectively improves gait disorder in patients with multiple sclerosis.

Long-term music therapy, such as rhythmic auditory strategy and dance strategy, improves gait disorders in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to the findings of a systematic review published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.

Previous research suggests music therapy can be a safe and cost-effective alternative for improving motor function. It incorporates rhythm and melody via multisensory stimulation and has been shown to increase gait speed and lower perception of cognitive fatigue. However, the long-term effects of music therapy on gait disorders in this patient population has yet to be investigated. 

For this study, researchers sought to investigate the outcomes of long-term intervention with music therapy on gait performance in patients with MS.

They conducted a systematic review of studies using several academic databases by including keywords of interest related to people with MS and music therapy. Studies selected included participants with MS, music therapy intervention on gait disorders, and primary outcomes on assessment of gait performance.

These changes demonstrate the therapeutic potential of MT intervention in the improvement of gait disorders in PwMS from multiple perspectives, which warrant its use and promotion in clinical.

A total of 380 participants (302 women), 244 who received music therapy and 136 that received conventional intervention, were included in the 12 studies assessed by the researchers. Music therapy was subdivided based into rhythmic auditory strategy and dance strategy, as studies incorporated different testing strategies. 

Outcomes of rhythmic auditory strategy demonstrated appreciable effects in patients with MS. Over a course of 2 weeks, a cohort of 10 patients with MS demonstrated a statistically significant decrease in double-support time, which is an indicator of gait stability. Another study of 30 patients with MS found that the intervention group with Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation (RAS) showed an increase in gait speed and movement distance as well as a reduced trend in fatigue after 4 weeks. 

In a study relating music and verbally-cued motor imagery intervention, findings of gait speed and movement distance showed the greatest increase in the subgroup that had music-cued motor imagery intervention, compared with their verbally-cued imagery intervention counterparts. 

Dance intervention, which utilizes different dance routines in patients with MS to evaluate gait improvement demonstrated appreciable effects as well. Improvements in mobility function and dynamic balance were observed in a cohort of 8 patients with MS that performed salsa dancing for a total of 4 weeks. Notably, during a 3-month follow-up window, self-reported therapeutic effects, which included poor balance and slow speed, were reduced.

Additional studies in dance intervention showed marked improvement in several key indices of gait intervention over a timeframe of 6-16 weeks, including postural balance, movement distance, balance and decrease in overall self-perceived fatigue.

Overall, the researchers acknowledged that “These changes demonstrate the therapeutic potential of MT [music therapy] intervention in the improvement of gait disorders in PwMS [persons with multiple sclerosis] from multiple perspectives, which warrant its use and promotion in clinical.”

Limitations of this systematic review included having a relatively small number of studies on music therapy reviewed, as well as varied intervention intensity of music therapy, which disqualified the ability to conduct a meta-analysis on which music therapy intervention could potentially show the most favorable outcomes. 

“When using these 2 strategies [rhythmic auditory strategy and dance strategy], therapists should reasonably consider several factors that have the potential to affect intervention efficiency, such as the rhythm choice when using the rhythmic auditory strategy and intervention intensity set when using the dance strategy. This will ensure that PwMS fully benefit from a course of intervention and significantly improve gait disorders.”


Kong L, Zhang X, Meng L, et al. Effects of music therapy intervention on gait disorders in persons with multiple sclerosis: a systematic review of clinical trialsMult Scler Relat Disord. Published online March 21, 2023. doi:10.1016/j.msard.2023.104629