Exercise therapy builds strength, mobility in MS patients

Exercise therapy can improve muscle strength, mobility and other signs of fitness in people with multiple sclerosis, according to a recent review of studies.

Nine high quality studies provide strong evidence that exercise therapy can make a difference in the daily living and quality of life of those with the disease, say Dr. Bernard Uitdehaag and colleagues of the Vrije Universitei Medical Centre in the Netherlands.

Exercise therapy also improved the mood of MS patients in exercise therapy programs, compared to patients who did not participate in the therapy. The researchers did not find any evidence that exercise therapy affected patients' fatigue or their sense of how ill they were.

Despite the evidence supporting exercise for MS patients, however, Uitdehaag says it's too early to recommend systematic referral of patients for exercise training.

So far, there is no clear indication of how much exercise is beneficial for people who have various types of the degenerative disease, Uitdehaag explains. Only patients who seem able to exercise and who are sufficiently motivated to train should begin the therapy, he says.

"Patients for exercise training should also be referred to therapists with sufficient experience in treating MS patients," Uitdehaag says.

The review appears in the January issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

Multiple sclerosis is a degenerative nerve disease that damages the protective fatty sheath around nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Some patients experience a pattern of disease flare-up followed by disease free periods, while others may have a steady worsening of the disease over time. According to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation

Contact: Bernard Uitdehaag
Center for the Advancement of Health

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