Stroke can leave you off-balance. If you’re walking has been affected, you’re not alone. Many people who suffered a stroke have problems with gait symmetry, or keeping both sides even. Your weak side makes it harder to walk upright and balanced. Besides having more trouble getting around, trouble walking means you’re likely to fall. So what can we do to improve this?
Using auditory cues to keep a rhythm
Korean researchers may have the answer. They wanted to integrate hearing cues in stroke rehab to stimulate strengthening of the weaker side. The concept is called rhythmic auditory stimulation, or RAS, and it works by connecting hearing with movement. Basically, you train your step to the cue of a rhythmic sound. Any jarring steps or off-balanced movements are then obvious to you immediately. Cues from RAS were a little faster than a comfortable stroll because research shows brisk walking produced better results. Because it helps your brain integrate motor and sensory functions, it’s thought that the feedback promotes better coordination and training outcomes. Some studies already show that its an effective way to treat gait disorders and help people walk.
Rhythm helps stroke rehab
RAS works by keeping rhythm for you, much like a drummer for a band or a metronome for a musician. When you’re off, you know it right away. According to Korean researchers, this feedback seems to help stroke patients walk better after rehab. They conducted a study of 45 patients who suffered a stroke less than 6 months ago. Half of these patients got gait training with RAS while the other half engaged in simple walking training without RAS. Patients would work out 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for a total of 6 weeks. They would also partake in their standard rehabilitation. In the end, RAS was more effective. The experimental patients had more improvements in walking symmetry, balance, and leg function than the control patients.
Work on your rhythm from the comforts of home
Though it was a small study, the authors conclude that these auditory cues can help stroke patients with walking during rehab. They think there’s enough to suggest a benefit in adding auditory gait training in a stroke rehab program. The benefits of stimulating your auditory senses can improve walking, which has a major impact on your independence and quality of life. The concept is versatile and can be used at home too. Interested? Work with the metronome in our Strokemark app.
The lead author of this study was Soonhyun Lee, from the Department of Physical Therapy at Sahmyook University, in Seoul, Korea.