Living an Active Life After a Stroke: Music Therapy

A stroke occurs when blood flow stops to an area of the brain, causing brain cell damage and dysfunction. The effects of a stroke can vary greatly from one individual to another because of differences in the severity and location of the brain cell damage. Common neurological deficits after stroke include varying degrees of weakness or paralysis, loss of coordination and balance, sensory loss and difficulty speaking or swallowing. Other symptoms can include pain, loss of memory and confusion, irritability, anxiety and depression.

How Can Music Therapy Help Stroke Survivors?

Music therapy has been medically and scientifically proven to be an effective tool in rehabilitation after a stroke. Particular areas of benefit include:

Movement and muscle control

Speech and communication


Mood and motivation

Movement and Muscle Control

A steady beat, rhythmic patterns, and musical timing can increase movement and improve muscle control. Activities may include:

Playing a drum to increase range of motion in the arm

Exercising to upbeat music

Timing music to match your natural walking rhythm

Speech and Communication

Music therapists use rhythm, melody, and singing to improve communication after a stroke.

Activities may include:

Exercising muscles of the mouth

Setting a phrase to music, first singing the words, then transferring these words to speech

Rhyming, chanting, or rapping


Music and musical structures are used to enhance all aspects of cognition including attention, memory, organization, and problem solving. Activities may include:

Creating a song with lyrics containing important information

Conducting or performing in a band

Rhythm repetition games

Mood, Motivation and Pain Management

The emotional and aesthetic qualities of music are used to improve mood, to increase motivation, and to assist in pain management. Activities include:

Song writing




Music listening

Playing an instrument uses many aspects of the brain and body, and can even be fun!

How Can Music Therapy be Incorporated at Home?

Your music therapist can help you create a play list (personalized to your needs and preferences) and load the songs onto an iPod or any mp3 music player to assist in your further recovery. Some examples include:

Music for exercise

Music for relaxation

Music for pain management

Music to sing along with

Direct recordings of your music therapy sessions

For additional information contact the American Stroke Association, 1-888-4STROKE, www.strokeassociation.org.

Music Therapy at Home

At home you can easily incorporate music into your personal rehabilitation program. Try to:

Listen! Listen to music by yourself or with your family and friends. Simple music listening can relieve stress and anxiety.

Sing, Sing, Sing! Singing can improve your mood and increase your resistance to infection. Sing, it doesn't matter what your voice sounds like!

Play it! Pick up your nearest musical instrument and play, or if you don't have one, create one.

To learn more about how to incorporate music therapy at home, visit the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function or call us at 718-519-5840.