Don’t Get Medical Advice from a Music Teacher

I’m not going to link to the web page in this post. I don’t really want to bring more attention to it than I’m already going to do. If you really want to find it, I’m sure that searching the internet will get you to it. But I often see this happen – a music teacher giving medical advice about maladies that seem (to them) to be related or somehow connected with brass playing, even though the music teacher is unqualified (and probably wrong).

So let me start with my usual disclaimer any time that I discuss heath issues. I’m not a medical doctor and I’m not qualified to offer medical advice. I won’t be giving you any medical advice here, beyond the suggestion that you should consult with a medical professional for health issues. I would never trust my doctor, dentist, or some other medical professional to suggest how I can improve my tone or which alternate position to use, that’s not their area of expertise, it’s mine. So why should a music teacher feel that giving students medical advice is OK?

This part of the website is to provide information for musicians who suffer from physical conditions, especially those symptoms known as asthma, Bell’s Palsy, and focal dystonia. For some readers, the solution that I’m offering will sound too good to be true. They may even get angry, convinced that no single process can solve such seemingly different conditions.

No citation on purpose – don’t go to this web page for medical advice

It’s not that I’m convinced no single process can cure the above conditions (which is doubtful) as much as I’m upset that the above individual is acting in an irresponsible way. This person should be ashamed. If a student decides to forgo real medical advice for a serious condition because the student believes the above garbage there can be real harm. Asthma attacks can kill. What a non-expert thinks is Bell’s palsy could actually be a stroke. There are serious consequences here.

I’ve been down this road before…

No citation on purpose – don’t go to this web page for medical advice

Yes, this person has been criticized for offering misinformation about health and medicine before. Rather than consult with a professional about it and get facts straight, this individual chooses instead to double down and continue to mislead students.

The bottom line is, I don’t make claims without first doing research and obtaining evidence. 

No citation on purpose – don’t go to this web page for medical advice

This individual doesn’t provide any citations or links. “Research” isn’t about looking on the internet for information that supports your preconceived ideas, it’s about subjecting a hypothesis to an honest test in an attempt to falsify your idea. If it withstand scrutiny, then you might be on to something. If it doesn’t, then you need to revise your hypothesis. If you have evidence in the way of citations, then put them in your essay. Don’t make outrageous claims and that you say are based on “research” and “evidence” unless you provide them.

Out of curiosity, I looked up what research on the benefits of playing a musical instrument says about treating asthma with playing a wind instrument. The problem with searching the internet (or even an academic library) is that you’ll find a lot of references to journals of dubious quality. This is an issue in all academia, music research included. “Publish or perish” run rampant through academia, so many predatory journals have sprung up over the past couple of decades that publish poor quality research or are biased towards a particular viewpoint. If you want to find a “journal” that supports your position or a quack who agrees with you, it’s not too hard to do so.

This is particularly a problem with journals that are specifically devoted to so-called “complimentary and alternative medicine” (CAM). Do you know what medical professionals call complimentary and alternative medicine that has been proven to be both safe and effective? Medicine! There’s no need to separate it unless you’re trying to brand your treatment, which is what CAM really is – a marketing term not a medical one. But here’s what one article in a journal devoted to CAM has to say about asthma and wind instruments.

The literature search identified 867 citations, from which 8 (three RCTs and five nRCTs) low and high risk of bias studies were included in the review. All RCTs used music listening as a form of complementary treatment. One RCT of the low risk of bias indicated positive effects on lung function in mild asthma. In two others, despite the decrease in asthma symptoms, music was not more effective than the control condition. In two nRCTs a decrease in asthma symptoms was reported as an effect of playing a brass or wind instrument; in two nRCTs the same effect was observed after music assisted vocal breathing exercises and singing. Mood improvement, decrease of depression and anxiety were also observed.

The paucity, heterogeneity, and significant methodological limitations of available studies allow for only a weak recommendation for music therapy in asthma. This study highlights the need for further research of mixed methodology.

Do asthmatics benefit from music therapy? A systematic review, Complementary Therapies in Medicine
Volume 22, Issue 4, August 2014, Pages 756-766

The bold emphasis above is mine. If a journal devoted to CAM, like the one I quoted from above, is finding only weak results then you have to be a particularly stubborn or ignorant crank to claim that trumpet playing will treat or cure asthma. Or, more likely, you’re not really searching the literature well and simply looking for things that already support your preconceived notions.

Continuing with our misinformed music teacher:

Common health conditions, as labeled by the medical community, are frequently only a side effect of a hidden, more primary cause. Further, when you make a correction at the level of the primary cause, the side effects typically disappear.

No citation on purpose – don’t go to this web page for medical advice

Again, this individual offers no citations, but I’m not sure that the above criticism is even accurate. Medical professionals are very much interested in helping patients with correcting the cause of symptoms. I think it’s pretty well understood by doctors that curing a disease or disorder involves finding the cause and eliminating it.

In the case of our sample trio of conditions – asthma, Bell’s Palsy, focal dystonia – what is the cause? Ask a medical doctor. He will say, “We don’t know the answer to that yet.” The best he can offer is symptom management, in the hopes that somehow the body eventually heals itself. Of course, from his frame of reference, that means drugs, which not only don’t ever cure anything, but actually lead to the creation of more problems. As the old alternative health saying goes, “the body is not crying out for more drugs.”

No citation on purpose – don’t go to this web page for medical advice

It is true that medical science doesn’t always have all the answers about what causes the above listed disorders, but they have good ideas and I trust the judgement of scientists who have devoted their education and careers to learning more about disease and how to cure them. Sometimes managing symptoms and allowing the body to heal itself is the best treatment. Symptom management may be a stop gap in some medical cases, but if you suffer from asthma, for example, a prescribed drug may just save your life. A music teacher who actively discourages taking medically prescribed drugs is behaving recklessly.

Regardless, just because the causes of a particular disorder like focal dystonia isn’t understood by medical science doesn’t mean that a music teacher has a better idea. In fact, I imagine that a music teacher has a much less chance of understanding medical issues.

My day job is still [music] teaching. However, an increasing amount of my time is spent investigating the brain.

No citation on purpose – don’t go to this web page for medical advice

This individual has no business pushing crackpot ideas on neuroscience, no matter how much “research” this individual pretends to be doing. At what point should a music teacher be believed over someone who spent 8-10 years in school studying medicine, a year of residency, and multiple years or decades of clinical practice or scientific research on neuroscience?

As it turns out, a high percentage of chronic health issues actually stem from the negative mental environment created by a single, correctable brain condition – hyperpolarity of brain functioning.

No citation on purpose – don’t go to this web page for medical advice

Again, there are no citations provided for what “high percentage” of health issues are caused by “hyperpolarity.” This is getting dangerously close to blaming the victim for health issues that they have no control over.

Note: Hyperpolarity of brain functioning is not taught in medical schools. Nor will you find it in any medical literature. In short, it is not recognized as a medically treatable condition.

No citation on purpose – don’t go to this web page for medical advice

This person doesn’t define “hyperpolarity of brain function.” A brief search for scholarly articles on “hyperpolarity brain” actually comes up with a number of hits. I haven’t bothered to read any of them, but it actually appears that hyperpolarity is recognized by medical schools. Here’s a link to a definition and short video explaining hyperpolarity and membrane potential put together by Dr. Marc Dingman, who actually earned his PhD in neuroscience, unlike our misinformed music teacher.

So, the advice I give you regarding hyperpolarity can in no way ever be misconstrued as “medical advice.” This is as close as I get to offering a disclaimer. 🙂

No citation on purpose – don’t go to this web page for medical advice

That above quote is what pushed me over the edge and prompted this rant. It’s incredibly disingenuous. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Suggesting someone who has been prescribed drugs for a serious medical condition does more harm than good and then later stating you’re not offering “medical advice” is devious and reprehensible.

Elsewhere, this same individual wrote, “I do not have – nor do I want to have – a medical degree.” If you’re not willing to put in the hard work and learn to understand medical science, then you have no business talking about it. Particularly when it is contrary to the advice of those who have put that time in to become certified medical professionals. You might think, what’s the big deal? I invite you to look through this web site and understand the harm it causes. This person is openly advocating that prescribed medication for asthma and other maladies “actually lead to the creation of more problems.” Do not believe anything this person says about health! To be honest, I don’t really trust much of this person’s ideas on music either, but at least crazy ideas about music don’t end up killing people.

Purveyors of misinformation like the individual I’m complaining about deserve to be marginalized. Their b*******t needs to be called out for what it is. If you are looking for health advice, talk with your doctor, not a music teacher. Especially not this one.

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