Music is a good therapy for everyone. It helps reaching out even to people who have a less common perception of life and its effects are recognized by health care specialists. If implemented by trained music therapists, it can also help in improving movements in stroke patients, says a new Cochrane Systematic Review. Smaller trials may also suggest benefits in recovery from brain injury.
Statistics say that over 20 million people suffer from strokes every year. One of the main consequences is brain injury. This trauma affects movement and language abilities and leads to a loss in the patients' quality of life. Music therapy is used in addition to physical recovery in rehabilitation centers. Traditional physical rehab programs alone, don't determine the patients to fully collaborate. The impulse needed to participate to their full potential comes from rhythm. Patients then express themselves in a musical activity.
Music therapists use techniques that stimulate brain functions, like the rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS). This technique relies on the connections between rhythm and movement and music of a certain tempo stimulates movement in the patient.
The review includes seven small studies, on a total of 184 people. Four of these studies focused on stroke patients, with three of them using RAS as the treatment technique. The therapy improved walking speed by an average of 14 meters per minute and patients also took longer steps. Music eases patients' difficulties with exercises and therapy and ensures a more consistent participation. It ultimately improves the quality of life of individuals with disabilities.
The effects of music therapy in stroke patients are encouraging, said lead researcher Joke Bradt of the Arts and Quality of Life Research Center at Temple University in Philadelphia, US. "As most of the studies we looked at used rhythm-based methods, we suggest that rhythm may be a primary factor in music therapy approaches to treating stroke."
Future studies will analyze the benefits of live or recorded music in improving speech, behavior and pain in patients with brain injuries.