Stroke survivors can expect to undergo a rehabilitation programme in the immediate post-stroke period. But a research team from the University of Newcastle in Australia and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden investigated whether further improvements could be made after they had returned to the community.
Horse riding and music therapy were chosen because both activities had shown some promise in helping people recover from brain and nervous system injuries.
A total of 123 Swedish stroke patients, aged between 50 and 75, were chosen for the study. The men and women had experienced stroke between 10 months and 5 years earlier.
A randomised trial
They were randomly assigned to receive either rhythm-and-music therapy, horse riding therapy or standard care.
Results showed that people who felt they were making a meaningful recovery were:
56% of the horse riding group
38% of the rhythm and music group
17% of the standard care group
The researchers also report that their perception of recovery was sustained when they were reviewed at 3- and 6-months afterwards.
They suggest that benefits of horse riding stem from the sensory input and 3-dimensional movements that mimic normal human gait. Rhythm-and-music therapy demands an ability to listen to music while simultaneously performing complicated hand and feet movements, they say.
Pointing out that the strength of the findings are limited by the few number of participants, Dr Shamim Quadir, research communications manager at the Stroke Association, says in an emailed statement: "Both types of therapy involve lots of different types of stimulation, for example, to their vision, balance and posture, all acting at the same time.
"So it would be good to see larger studies which look into how these different stimuli might work together or alone to benefit people recovering from a stroke."
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