Getting creative helps stroke survivors improve more rapidly

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art therapy for stroke surviviors

A new study has highlighted that combining creative art therapy with conventional physical therapy helps stroke survivors improve at a faster rate. Creative therapies include music, dance, art and drama, as well as handicrafts. In this case the study focused on art therapy.

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when oxygen supply to the brain is shut off. This can be in the form of a blood clot, called an ischaemic stroke, or sometimes a blood vessel will burst causing a haemorrhagic stroke. report that a stroke occurs every 3 minutes 27 seconds in the UK, so by the time you finish reading this someone in the UK will have suffered a stroke. They are common and often the result of a poor lifestyle - an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, smoking and high blood pressure all cause strokes.

Who Does It Affect?

Unhealthy folk and people over the age 55 are more likely to have a stroke, as are those from socially deprived areas.

It can affect children too. It’s thought 400 children a year suffer stroke. Overall 1 in 53 UK natives survive stroke. That’s a huge number. It’s the third highest cause of death amongst Brits after cancer and heart disease.

What Are The After Effects?

Stroke affects walking, balance, co-ordination, increases tiredness, affects vision, bladder and bowel control, swallowing, talking, spatial awareness, and a range of psychological illnesses.

What Are The Treatments?

Stroke is common and there are many treatments depending on how severe it is. The longer someone goes without treatment the more likely they will suffer extensive and permanent brain damage.

Treatments include:

• Motor skills strengthening to improve swallowing and co-ordination

• Mobility training to support walking, including re-learning to walk

• Constraint therapy / forced therapy which means restricting unaffected limbs to ensure use of the affected ones

• Range of motion therapy. Exercises to lesson muscle tension and regain motion 

Creative Art therapy

Also known as expressive arts is about using creative forms of art to stimulate the mind and body.

Experts believe people can heal using their imaginations and creative expression. It’s about the process rather than the final product.

The New Study

The recent study sought to determine if creative art therapy plus physical therapy increased cognitive ability and quality of life for stroke survivors rather than physical therapy alone.

118 stroke patients aged over 50 years were selected for the study. Participants were all able to communicate through speech.

All participants continued to receive physical therapy five days a week, but the intervention group undertook creative art therapy twice a week for four weeks alongside it. Their cognitive function, depression, physical performance and anxiety were measured before the study and afterwards.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the intervention group receiving added art therapy improved more than the control group. Both groups improved compared to baseline measurement e.g. no support at all, but added art therapy significantly improved cognitive function, physical ability and quality of life over the control group. It also reduced anxiety and depression.

Overall 68.5% of participants reported improved concentration, 79.6% reported improved self confidence, and 72.2% improved motivation.

Researchers conclude that physical therapy and creative art therapy together significantly deceases depression, improves physical function and increases quality of life for stroke survivors.

It’s certainly something to think about it if you are, or care for, a stroke victim.

Read more about Strokes:

New Evidence Acupuncture relieves depression in stroke patients

Rhythmic Music Therapy helps Stroke & Cerebral Palsy Patients

Play it again Sam – music therapy helps stroke survivors

Curcumin protects the body from atherosclerosis

Read more about creative therapies: 

Hypnotherapy, art therapy and music therapy help children in the fight against cancer

Art therapy for dementia patients

What is Art Therapy?

 Prescribing Art for Older People

Hypnosis & music therapy reduce pressure for glaucoma patients

Music therapy eases breast feeding for premature babies

Family centred music therapy improves social interactions in autistic children

Music therapy could help adolescents with brain damage

What is Music Therapy?


Kongkasuwan et al. Creative art therapy to enhance rehabilitation for stroke patients: a randomized controlled trial.  Clin rehabilitation Sept 2015.




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