Horseback riding and rhythm-and-music therapy was shown to help stroke patients feel like they are recovering more quickly, a small Swedish study finds. This feeling of healing applies even if the stroke occurred years ago.
In the study, 56 percent of participants who completed twice-weekly lessons for 12 weeks felt they had experienced meaningful recovery; 38 percent of participants in a music group also felt better. These numbers compare to the just 17 percent of stroke victims who felt they had meaningful recovery with no extra activity. The benefit persisted six months after the lessons terminated.
The study involved 123 Swedish volunteers who each had had a stroke nearly three years prior. It is believed that the social and physical aspects of riding or moving to the music is what helps stroke victims, but the data did not compare the findings to other patients who had twice-weekly outings in company.
Each study participant was moderately debilitated: they could walk and use the toilet without assistance. Those partaking in the horseback riding had twice-weekly, four-hour sessions that involved grooming, special exercises and riding for 30 minutes while the horse was led. These participants immediately believed they had improved.
Those included in the music portion had twice-weekly, 90-minute sessions where they were asked to move their hands and feet in time with the music. In this instance, it was three months after the end of the therapy sessions that patients believed they had improved.
These findings counter the idea that stroke victims can't improve if over a year has passed since their brain damage occurred. Most stroke research happens in the acute phase, so much research is needed on ways for patients to improve after they are out of the acute phase.
The study measured how patients felt they were rehabbing, not how well they scored on tests designed to objectively measure improvement like gait, hand strength, balance or memory. The study was focused on self-reported improvement as positive self-perception is an important part of long-term improvement. It is hoped that the data found will help doctors determine the best type of activity to help retrain the brain after a stroke.
Read more at Reuters.
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