How Music Therapy Can Help With Stroke Recovery


CT scan slice of the brain showing a right-hemispheric ischemic stroke (left side of image)


A stroke, or cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is the rapid loss of brain function(s) due to disturbance in the blood supply to the 1) ___. This can be due to ischemia (lack of blood flow) caused by blockage (thrombosis, arterial embolism), or a hemorrhage. As a result, the affected area of the brain cannot function, which might result in an inability to move one or more limbs on one side of the body, inability to understand or formulate speech, or an inability to see one side of the visual field.


A stroke is a medical emergency and can cause permanent neurological 2) ___, complications, and death. Risk factors for stroke include old age, hypertension (high blood pressure), previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), diabetes, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking and atrial fibrillation. High blood pressure is the most important modifiable risk factor of stroke. It is the second leading cause of death worldwide. An ischemic stroke is occasionally treated in a hospital with thrombolysis (also known as a “clot buster”), and some hemorrhagic strokes benefit from neurosurgery. Treatment to recover any lost function is termed stroke rehabilitation, ideally in a stroke unit and involving health professions such as speech and language 3) ___, physical therapy and occupational therapy. Prevention of recurrence may involve the administration of antiplatelet drugs such as aspirin and dipyridamole, control and reduction of hypertension, and the use of statins. Selected patients may benefit from carotid endarterectomy and the use of anticoagulants.


Music therapy helps stroke patients relearn old skills, like walking and talking, and reconnecting with life. Music therapy is an excellent way to help patients heal and recover after a 4) ___. It can help stroke patients regain movement, communicate, and lift their mood at the same time. Music therapy is the therapeutic use of music to help patients physically and psychologically recover from a variety of medical conditions, including stroke. Often, a patient will receive 5) ___ therapy because a doctor has recommended it along with other therapies, including physical therapy and occupational therapy. Music therapy has been around for thousands of years in various forms, but it wasn’t until 1950 that it was recognized in the United States with the formation of the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). “There is a pretty strong research foundation for music therapy,” says Al Bumanis, MT-BC, director of communications for the AMTA, and a long-time music therapist.


Music therapy can help stroke patients recover by using music, specifically 6) ___, to relearn gait, and singing techniques can be used to help improve speech, says Bumanis, adding that music therapy also lets stroke victims feel like they belong. “People can’t feed themselves, but they can sing songs and remember the lyrics,” he says. If stroke patients are having trouble communicating clearly, or struggling to express themselves, music can help them communicate their mood and ease feelings of frustration. Drums are particularly effective in helping stroke patients communicate, says Bumanis. “They can learn patterns through music to help them 7) ___.” And music helps stroke patients better communicate with their caregivers. “It’s a great thing to share. It helps them reconnect — dancing, singing, listening to music,” adds Bumanis.


Besides helping with communication skills, music therapy can help a stroke patient regain control over their 8) ___ and regain lost skills, like walking. “It can energize people,” he explains. “To get stroke victims moving, we can match the tempo to where the client is,” Bumanis says. “We then can gradually increase it, with the eventual goal of dropping the music and having the person move on their own.”


Depression and anxiety are common after a stroke. “Relaxing to music, learning to breathe to music, almost meditating to music are powerful [healing] tools,” says Bumanis. Just participating in musical activities can lower blood 9) ___ and other anxiety-related markers.


According to the AMTA, your health insurance coverage may reimburse you for music therapy; Medicare has recognized it as a reimbursable service since 1994. To be reimbursable, the therapy must be:


1. Prescribed by your doctor

2. An important part of your therapy

3. Documented in a treatment plan


Anyone who is interested in music therapy as part of stroke rehabilitation should contact the American Music Therapy Association to find a music 10) ___ in their area. If you’re struggling with depression or finding it difficult to learn again after your stroke, music therapy can offer many of the same benefits as other types of post-stroke therapy, but in a more enjoyable, relaxed environment.


ANSWERS: 1) brain; 2) damage; 3) therapy; 4) stroke; 5) music; 6) rhythm; 7) communicate; 8) muscles; 9) pressure; 10) therapist


Getting reimbursement for music therapy


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