Neurologic Music Therapy as an effective rehabilitation tool for stroke victims

By Daniel Thomas, joint managing director, Chroma Therapies

Suffering a stroke is a frightening event. They occur suddenly and without warning, usually caused by a blockage of arteries leading to the brain, known as an Ischemic stroke. Another, less common stroke, can be caused by bleeding into brain tissue when a blood vessel bursts, but Ischemic Strokes remain the most common.

Regardless of which stroke is experienced, it always affects how the body functions. Depending on the part of the brain injured and the extent to which it was injured, there are a number of effects that could occur including sudden weakness, loss of sensation, or difficulty seeing, speaking or walking. It is the surrounding area where the stroke occurs which predetermines the functions affected, so effects may differ for each victim.

Here at Chroma, we have worked with several stroke patients in NHS and private clinical settings and even undertaken pilot schemes on stroke wards providing Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) as a rehabilitation technique, which has proven to be highly effective.

Providing NMT to stroke patients to aid rehabilitation resulted in significant improvements in the treatment of patients recovering from a stroke, not to mention, enhanced goal-setting, improvements in wellbeing & mood and improvements across impairment domains (sensorimotor, psychosocial, speech and language, cognitive), with a knock-on effect for some patients on independence in activities of daily life.

The success of our work within such pilot schemes as well as continually alongside NHS and private healthcare providers, helps demonstrate just how effective Neurologic Music Therapy can be to improve the quality of life.

How NMT helps clients rehab

Any one of us can respond to music – emotionally or physically. It can make us cry, smile, sing, recall the lyrics, even improvise lyrics creating new words/ideas or dance, move or sway. Music automatically connects with the brain, which is why it is so effective in rehabilitation. Its automaticity of response allows healthy and unaffected parts of the brain to be recruited, allowing patients to re-learn functions such as movement or speech, via these new neural pathways.

In fact, we have found that patients of stroke have been able to exceed predetermined recovery outcomes thanks to the use of Neurologic Music Therapy during rehabilitation when used alongside conventional rehabilitation techniques. This technique plays a significant role in enabling stroke victims to surpass recovery outcomes and improve their quality of life for themselves and their loved ones.

A recent study conducted at Anglia Ruskin University’s Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research found that music therapy, used alongside other rehabilitation techniques, did help improve rehabilitation outcomes in stroke patients.

177 patients took part in the study over 2 years and a total of 675 sessions of NMT were carried out.

These music sessions were found to help improve mood, concentration, motor function and gait of all participants. Finger movements also improved as well as patient engagement.

The use of music and instruments allowed patients to achieve a high amount of repetition which helped them achieve their goals.

As is always the case with music therapy, exercises were far less clinical and in fact more fun or play-like, and patients were able to gain an immediate response from the exercises via the sounds they created, which served as a vital motivation tool.

Improvements in these 177 stroke patients brain and motor functions over two years, further solidifies the idea that, when NMT is used alongside conventional rehabilitation techniques such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and clinical psychology, it helps to dramatically improve the rate of recovery.

Adopting NMT, alongside mainstream rehabilitation techniques, continues to demonstrate significant improvements in stroke recovery and remains the determining factor in the success of rehabilitation and improvements to the quality of life.