Music is an incredible thing. Hearing a song, or even a particular rhythm, can take you back to a time you thought long forgotten. But here at Strokemark, we’re not interested in nostalgia. We have our sights set firmly on the future. And if you’re in the chronic stage of stroke recovery, it seems music could have a growing role to play as you move towards that future.
It’s never too late to rock ‘n’ roll
We’re talking about music-supported therapy (MST), an approach to rehabilitation that uses music-making activities to facilitate improvements in stroke-related disability. Researchers have already shown that MST has an edge over traditional physical therapy when used for patients in the early stages following a stroke. But could it also be of value in patients who suffered their stroke months (or even years) before?
Researchers from institutes across the US and Canada think it might. The team has explored the effects of MST on hand/arm strength and movement, cognitive function, and general wellbeing when used alongside conventional therapy in patients with chronic stroke.
Training to the beat of a different drum
Over the course of ten weeks, the researchers treated 14 patients aged between 40 and almost 80 in three hour-long therapy sessions per week. The patients used drums, drum pads, drumsticks, and mallets, and jammed along with their therapist. Each session focused on changing rhythms and movement. There was a second group of 15 patients. This group engaged in more neighbor-friendly ‘GRASP’ exercises. These exercises focused on daily tasks such as picking up a teapot or tying a scarf.
There was no evidence that the MST group had greater improvements in motor function when compared with the GRASP group. However, the results suggested that different types of improvement appeared in the music makers. These patients tested better in things related to the speed of recovery, wellbeing (measured by social and communication), and interestingly, rhythm perception.
So why not ask your therapist if you can join the jam session? It might help you to get more than just your groove back.
The lead author of this study was Takako Fujioka, Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, Department of Music, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA.