Healing from Stroke

Artist working on a painting

Recreational Therapy

What is recreational therapy? This therapy uses a holistic approach that combines the physical, social, cognitive and emotional functioning of people with disabilities. Having a little fun can have great benefits for people with disabilities after stroke.

Some patients see improved abilities physically, cognitively, socially and emotionally after recreational therapy – which can include art, dance, games and many other activities.

Recreational therapists choose activities in a safe, fun, non-threatening environment that helps people use new skills for work, social relationships and daily living. Activities that might work well for recreational therapy include crafts, music, drama, relaxation, horticulture, movement, volunteer activities and some sports.

One example might be guiding someone with short term memory deficits, fine motor deficits and poor endurance through the card game Concentration. The survivor would use his or her affected hand to turn the cards while standing.

For more information and to find trained, certified and licensed recreational therapists, visit the American Therapeutic Recreation Association.

Healing Through Music

Music therapy may be more than “music to the ears” for stroke survivors. It can:

  • Improve your balance and gait as well as speech, memory, attention and focus.
  • Help organize motor movement if you can’t control your muscles.
  • Encourage you to move spontaneously in ways you wouldn’t if you thought about it.

Stroke may damage executive functions, which includes ability to plan and perform tasks. So, when you use the affected side, for instance by playing a keyboard, you acknowledge the limb exists and increase the chance you’ll will move that side at will. Increase your focus that’s lost from brain injury to help you perform a series of steps. Sing a song. Even if you can’t talk, you still may be able to sing.

Singing has a facilitating effect on speech, so skills used to sing words may carry over to regular speech. Songs that are popular, have predictable lyrics or from childhood may be easier to sing.

Pump up the volume in music therapy, you can use a wide range of instruments. Digital ones are especially effective because you can adjust the output. For instance, turning up the volume on digital drums allows you to hear the effect.

Whether playing, singing, listening or writing, music therapy may help stroke survivors.

For help locating a music therapist, contact the American Music Therapy Association at (301) 589-3300 or find [email protected].

Water Therapy

Water therapy after a stroke is usually recommended after significant progress with other therapies. It can help after stroke, but it may not be for everyone. Here are a few things to consider:

  • mobility of hands and feet cognitive ability
  • fear of water
  • access to a pool; Many pools have assistive lifts to make them accessible.

Talk with your therapist about where to find a good program for you. Also, your local YMCA, YWCA or other community center may offer aquatic fitness or therapy classes. Regardless of whether water therapy is right for you, exercise is a good thing and should always be a part of the discussion for your continued improvement.

Animals and Therapy

You may think you’re too disabled from your stroke to ride a horse. Maybe you think you’re too old. Perhaps, you’ve never been on a horse. But as a form of therapy, horseback riding can help you develop balance, coordination and strength.

Throughout America, hundreds of accredited therapeutic riding centers offer help to people with disabilities. A therapy horse’s walk can stimulate your pelvis and trunk as it resembles your walk. The horse’s movements can cause your body to react in a three-dimensional, constantly changing pattern that improves tone, stamina and balance.

Horseback riding may have other therapeutic benefits:

  • For one it’s fun!
  • It may also help you emotionally as you overcome fear and anxiety while increasing self-esteem.
  • It has cognitive value as you learn to give commands to the horse. It allows you to practice speech and language skills.