Music Therapy Effective Tool in Rehabilitation After Stroke

Deanne Stein Health Guide
  • My sister-in-law recently gave me a couple of CD's with classical music on them. I love classical music, but these CD's were developed to be played for an unborn child. I've been listening to them mainly because the music is relaxing to me. I hope my baby girl enjoys it as well. According to my doctor, no one knows for sure if music affects fetal development. There are studies that say fetuses can hear and react to sound by moving, but no one really knows what those movements mean since experts can't observe an unborn baby as easily as they can one who is out of the womb. Others say newborns can recognize music played for them when they were in the womb, and even perk up or fall asleep when they hear a familiar song. I guess we'll see, but I do believe music has many benefits for everyone, baby or otherwise.

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    In fact, the subject came up during my rehabilitation after my stroke. I mentioned to my therapist that I enjoyed playing the piano before my stroke. I was immediately whisked away to another room in the hospital where a piano was set up. Apparently, rehabilitation is much more successful if the patient is doing exercises he or she enjoys. I didn't enjoy hearing myself play, believe me it wasn't pretty, considering I couldn't move my right hand. But, over time, it did help me re-train my brain to move my right hand and fingers, which were the last to come back.


    So, it was no surprise I discovered that music therapy has been medically and scientifically proven to be an effective tool in rehabilitation after experiencing a stroke. It can help in several areas including movement and muscle control, speech and communication, cognition, mood and motivation. The exercises can range from playing an instrument, singing, dancing or just walking to the beat of a rhythm. And it can easily be added to your personal rehabilitation program at home.


    I recently read about Trevor Gibbons, a stroke survivor who wasn't expected to recover. Thanks to music therapy, he is now walking, talking and even singing. Gibbons ended up at the Beth Abraham Rehab Center in the Bronx, a pioneer in the field of music therapy. The program was started more than 25 years ago with music therapists going room to room with a piano. Now, stroke, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients all use a high tech recording studio to make music and breakthroughs in their treatments. Therapists say the music can help bring back old memories and tap into language skills buried by injury or disease. What's even more amazing is that Gibbons has now penned more than 400 songs, performed at Lincoln Center and cut two CD's.


    Needless to say, I'm still a music lover. And with just about three weeks to delivery, I will continue listening to music, not because I want to try to make my unborn child smarter, but because I enjoy it. It continues to help me relax or fall asleep and, hey, if my daughter does become smarter for it, all the better.


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Published On: September 04, 2007