Stroke rehabilitation begins almost immediately after hospital admission and often continues for at least one to two months afterward-and sometimes longer. At first, the primary goal is to reduce or prevent stroke complications, such as stiffening of the limbs and deep vein thrombosis, by getting the patient out of bed and moving about as soon as possible.
As the patient’s condition improves, the focus turns to longer-term goals of restoring mental and physical functioning, coping with any disabilities and returning to an active life. A 2017 Swedish study found that long-term stroke survivors given either music or horseback-riding therapy experienced significant improvement in their symptoms.
The study, published in the journal Stroke, involved 123 participants, ages 50 to 75, who had a stroke between 10 months and five years earlier. They were randomly assigned to three months of a rhythm and music therapy program, an equine therapy program, or a control group that received no special treatment.
After 12 weeks, 15 (37.5 percent) of the 40 participants receiving music therapy and 7 (17 percent) of the 41 participants receiving equine therapy said they perceived significant improvements in their symptoms, based on a standardized questionnaire; the control group reported little change. Both therapy groups also exhibited improvement in at least one objective physical criterion such as gait, balance, or grip strength.
Ask your doctor to recommend a trained music or equine therapist in your area. Or find a qualified therapist through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International at pathintl.org, or the American Music Therapy Association at musictherapy.org.