Guitar lessons seen to improve hand mobility in stroke patients — study

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By Patricia B. Mirasol, Reporter

GUITAR exercises can help rehabilitate hand function among stroke patients with unilateral hand impairment, according to a study.

Project G.T.A.R.A., or “Grip/Grasp Training with Active Range of Motion Activities using Guitar,” is a set of guitar exercises similar to those used in traditional occupational therapy sessions for patients with one impaired hand and one normally functioning hand.

The P3-million project, which ended December 2022, was funded by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DoST-PCHRD) and developed by the University of the Philippines Diliman-College of Music (UPCMu).

Evaluation of the project results is ongoing.

“This partnership with UPCMu aims to capitalize on the benefits of leveraging music therapy as a rehabilitation strategy for patients,” said Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, DoST-PCHRD executive director, in a Jan. 20 statement.

“If successful, this project can contribute to the recovery of our stroke patients with hand impairments, and enable them to perform their tasks normally,” he added.

The eight-week treatment session culminated in a guitar presentation on Dec. 17 featuring seven of the 17 study participants at the UPCMu’s Mini Hall. The performances, according to the DoST-PCHRD, demonstrated the benefits of utilizing the guitar methods curated by the project team for chronic stroke patients.

The idea behind G.T.A.R.A. was born in a UPCMu class in 2017 led by Professor Nathan V. Manimtim and a conversation on Classical Guitar Pedagogy – A Handbook for Teachers, a book written by classical guitarist and composer Anthony Glise.

Daniel Joseph S. Morabe, a UPCMu alumnus and G.T.A.R.A. project team member, said that the Glise book is unique because it discusses the effect of the different guitar playing techniques on the body and health of the guitarist.

After observing patients in the occupational therapy ward of the Philippine General Hospital, Mr. Morabe saw the rehabilitative potential of guitar exercises.

Mr. Manimtim, Mr. Morabe’s former professor and G.T.A.R.A. project leader, explained in a Jan. 23 e-mail: “To test whether these similarities [between therapy sessions and classical guitar techniques] were merely superficial or have a deeper connection, Dr. Kreza G. Ligaya — who was a resident physician of Rehabilitation Medicine at that time — invited a stroke patient with right-hand deficiency to participate in a pilot study on the use of specially designed guitar-playing exercises by Mr. Morabe and myself.”

The improvement seen on this stroke patient’s quality of movement prompted the project proponents to form a team of doctors and musicians to conduct a more comprehensive study.