A promising tool in stroke recovery

A promising tool in stroke recovery

Each year, more than 795,000 people have a stroke. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on average, someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds.

Stroke is a major cause of disability and reduces mobility in more than half of survivors age 65 and over. But new research suggests a certain kind of therapy may be beneficial for those survivors.

The recent study in Sweden monitored the effects of traditional and innovative therapies for 123 stroke survivors. Participants were randomly split into two groups, one that participated in horseback riding and music-and-rhythm therapy and a second group that received standard stroke care. Each participant also met with their therapist twice a week for 12 weeks.

“A stroke occurs when an area of the brain is deprived of oxygen. It may result in paralysis or lack of sensation to one side of the body, inability to swallow, speak or even understand language,” says Dr. Susan Lis, medical director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.

The study showed that smooth steps of a horse could help people who have suffered from a stroke regain lost mobility and balance years after their stroke. And the complex movement of participants’ hands and feet in music-and-rhythm therapy helps stimulate their body and mind.

The researchers found the group who participated in horseback riding and music-and-rhythm therapy self-reported greater improvements after six months when it came to regaining their strength and mobility versus those in the other group. In fact, 56 percent of participants in the horseback riding group believed their stroke recovery had progressed, as did 43 percent in the music group. Only 2 percent of patients in the standard care group reported positive progress.

Dr. Lis explains, “Natural recovery from a stroke occurs predominately in the first six months and even up to a year after. However, people can improve for many years thereafter. The study describes the impact and improvement in a person’s ability to function with hippotherapy and music therapy. The excellent news is that additionally, there have been numerous studies proving the importance of various and new modalities of rehabilitation after a stroke.”

There are many different rehabilitation options for stroke victims both traditional or newer.

“The goal of rehabilitation early on, as well as many years thereafter, is to normalize function to the best of our ability using the various traditional and new techniques, and at the same time, to never lose sight of each person’s dreams and goals,” says Dr. Lis.

Related Posts



  1. Marlene Doodeman July 21, 2017 at 12:16 pm · Reply

    I am a 70+ woman who had a stroke a year ago. I have a tingling sensation in my right (dominate) hand, arm and right face. It has not changed since the first onset. Is there any hope with this type of therapy? Standard therapy has not help.

    • Dear Marlene,
      I am also a stroke survivor, right side affected. I coordinate the Guest Speakers for the Stroke Support Group at North west Community Hospital. Our speaker for this months meeting was a music therapist. She was awesome, and I think you should get in touch with her. If you’re interested let me know, and I’ll forward you her contact info.

      Take care,
      Tina Primer

  2. I am in my mid 40’s and had a stroke 3 years ago. I consider myself to be healthy, however, I continue to struggle with neuropathy that runs down my left leg into my foot that changes in sensation with activity and weather. I am not currently taking any medication for the discomfort, however I am back in physical therapy to help ease the neuropathic discomfort. Is there any other recommendations of therapy or treatments to help ease the pain?

  3. Deborah McCormick July 21, 2017 at 12:50 pm · Reply

    I suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm in 2010 and crocheting was my home therapy. It took a lot of trial and error but it sure did help to bring me bavk! My husband did crossword puzzles with me but I don’t remember that. I also had physical therapy for a period of time at the hospital.

  4. Judith Kawaguchi July 21, 2017 at 4:18 pm · Reply

    To all of you who have survived a stroke there are still things you can do to help recover some of your losses. First sign up to participate in studies of new treatments on The Shirley Ryan Ability Lab website (formerly Rehab Institute of Chicago) then participate in the research. There are studies that look into pain relief, arm/hand movement, gait (walking) and speech therapy, Many are paid studies and all are free rehab! The more you do the more you can do! This is a wonderful resource right in downtown Chicago! You can help develop new techniques and treatments that will help yourself and others.

  5. For years I have volunteered with a hippotherapy barn and am amazed to see how much improvement can be made for physically impaired individuals simply by riding a horse. These specially trained horses are gentle and we assist the individuals by walking along side or leading the horse for them. It increases core strength and balance and is much more fun than traditional therapies!

About the Author

health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.