A customized program that includes balance and eye movement exercises may help persons with multiple sclerosis (MS) with their balance problems and fatigue, according to a new study.
The study was published in Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially devastating brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) condition.
The immune system assaults the protective sheath (myelin) that protects nerve fibres in MS, causing communication issues between the brain and the rest of the body. The condition might eventually cause permanent nerve injury or degeneration.
MS symptoms vary greatly amongst patients and are determined by the location and intensity of nerve fibre damage in the central nervous system. Some persons with severe MS may lose their ability to walk or ambulate at all. Depending on the form of MS, some people may experience long periods of remission with no new symptoms.
Multiple sclerosis has no known cure. There are, however, medicines available to help hasten recovery after attacks, alter the course of the disease, and manage symptoms.
Balance issues and fatigue in MS
Balance issues and fatigue are frequent in MS, and they are linked to falls and reduced mobility, limiting people’s ability to work or participate in daily activities. People with MS can also have vision impairments, which can lead to improper movement corrections, which can lead to further balance issues.
“Most rehabilitation programs to improve balance have focused mainly on strength exercises and balance exercises that are not designed for the specific problems of people with MS,” said study author Jeffrey R. Hebert, PT, PhD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora. “We wanted to see if performing balance and eye movement exercises while processing multiple different sensory information could help people improve their balance and fatigue issues.”
Balance and eye movement exercises while processing multiple sensory information
The study included 88 persons with MS who could walk 100 meters with only a cane or other device on one side. Participants completed questionnaires about their balance, weariness, dizziness, and other issues. The participants then completed six weeks of supervised exercises twice a week, as well as instructions for exercising every day at home; for the next eight weeks, they had one supervised exercise session per week, in addition to the daily exercises at home. The remaining participants were told they were on a waiting list for the program as a control group. Everyone in the program was tested after six weeks and again at the conclusion.
Balance exercises on various surfaces and while walking, both with and without head motions and eyes open and closed, were included, as well as eye movement activities to aid enhance visual stability.
Exercise program improves balance in MS Patients
People who completed the exercise program improved their balance compared to the control group after six weeks. On a computer-based balance test, where healthy adults with no balance issues score around 90 or better out of 100, those who completed the exercise program improved their scores from an average of 63 at the start of the program to an average of 73 at the end, compared to scores of 62 at the start to 66 at the end for the control group. The benefits remained visible at the conclusion of the trial.
The exercisers also performed better on fatigue and dizziness tests than the control group.
Hebert stated that additional research is required to discover whether the improvements can be sustained and to directly compare this exercise program to other balance training programs.
Materials provided by the American Academy of Neurology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length; https://www.mayoclinic.org
Jeffrey R. Hebert, John R. Corboy, Timothy Vollmer, Jeri E. Forster, Margaret Schenkman. Efficacy of Balance and Eye-Movement Exercises for Persons With Multiple Sclerosis (BEEMS). Neurology, 2018; 10.1212/WNL.0000000000005013 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000005013
American Academy of Neurology. “Balance exercises may help people with multiple sclerosis.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 February 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180202112725.htm>.
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