Wellness education and physical therapy improve health and functioning of persons with multiple sclerosis

Research Activities, March 2010, No. 355

Multiple sclerosis (MS) causes the immune system to attack nerve cells causing muscle weakness, fatigue, and other symptoms. Although there is no cure for MS, regular physical activity can help patients slow down the decline. A new study comparing physical rehabilitation to a group wellness program shows that both approaches improve physical activity and reduce fatigue in patients with MS. Each approach, however, may have unique benefits.

Researchers randomly placed 50 individuals with MS into one of two groups. The physical rehabilitation group received four physical therapy sessions and three phone calls between sessions to encourage therapy adherence. The wellness group met 2 hours each week for 7 weeks. Participants in both groups received a home exercise program and questionnaires before and after the interventions to assess their level of functioning.

Both groups reaped a variety of health benefits, such as better physical activity, a lower resting heart rate, less fatigue, and improvements in percent of body fat, waist circumference, and strength. While both interventions produced similar results, the individualized physical rehabilitation may have had a greater effect in slowing the decline of perceived physical health. The group wellness intervention, on the other hand, may have improved an individual's mental health better. According to the researchers, a new intervention that incorporates group education with therapeutic exercise tailored to the specific patient should be designed and tested for improvements in patients' physical and mental health. Their study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS15554 and T32 HS00011).

See "Comparing individualized rehabilitation to a group wellness intervention for persons with multiple sclerosis," by Matthew A. Plow, Ph.D., Virgil Mathiowetz, Ph.D., O.T.R./L., and Dawn A. Lowe, Ph.D., in the September/October 2009 American Journal of Health Promotion 24(1), pp. 23-26.

Current as of March 2010
Internet Citation: Wellness education and physical therapy improve health and functioning of persons with multiple sclerosis: Research Activities, March 2010, No. 355. March 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/mar10/0310RA6.html