Recovering From Stroke With… Music and Horse Riding?

It might seem hard to believe that music therapy and horse riding can have any noticeable impact on the stroke recovery process. If a recent study is to be believed, this seemingly unrelated activities could actually help those recovering from stroke.

Published in the journal Stroke, this report documented the health of 123 Swedish men and women. Each of these subjects had a history of stroke, and was between the ages of 50 and 75. The participants had suffered a stroke between 10 months and 5 years prior to the onset of the study.

The volunteers were required to receive either rhythm-and-music therapy, horse-riding therapy or ordinary care; those receiving regular treatment effectively served as the study’s control group. Each group underwent two sessions of their assigned therapy twice per week.

Meaningful Benefits

Upon completing 12 weeks of therapy, the participants were asked if they had experienced “meaningful recovery” during the study. Listed below are the percentage of subjects in each group that responded “yes”:

  • Horse Riding Group: 56 Percent
  • Music Therapy Group: 38 Percent
  • Control Group: 17 Percent

Perhaps more importantly, the researchers found that the benefits listed above persisted for six months after the conclusion of the study. So how do these unusual treatment methods yield such impressive results? Michael Nillson, a professor at the University of Gothenburg and the study’s lead author, offers the following explanations.

“Horse-riding therapy produces a multi- sensory environment and the three-dimensional movements of the horse’s back create a sensory experience that closely resembles normal human gait and is beneficial for stroke survivors.” stated Nillson. Music therapy, in comparison, requires the movement of hands and feet in response to visual and audio cues, something that often proves challenging to those recovering from stroke.

At the time of the study’s publication (June 2017), the author planned to conduct additional research to confirm their findings. This follow-up study would involve a larger number of recovering stroke victims.

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