A study involving a clinical trial treating multiple sclerosis patients with sensory training was published in Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation and reports optimistic results. Lead author Davide Cattaneo, from an institute in Italy, concluded that multiple sclerosis patients can improve balance lost from sensory impairment upon balance rehabilitation training.
Fifty three multiple sclerosis patients were randomized into two groups. One group (experimental) endured balance rehabilitation to improve motor and sensory coordination. The other group (control) completed rehabilitation treatment without any sensory training. Both groups received fifteen 45-minute treatment sessions, during which the experimental group performed exercises with gradual removal of sensory cues, and the control group performed exercises focused solely on improving range of motion and muscle force.
Each group was evaluated on a stabilometric platform that was foam or firm under three sensory conditions: eyes open, eyes closed, and sway referenced. While standing on the stabilometric platform in a specific position and trying to stay as still as possible, each multiple sclerosis patient was evaluated for swaying and loss of balance.
The experimental group showed an improvement in stability over the control group during four different sensory conditions that tested the sense trained during treatment–eyes open on a firm surface and sway referenced on a firm surface showed no difference between the groups.
This trial was a follow-up to a pilot study authored by Cattaneo in 2007. During the pilot study, 44 multiple sclerosis patients were randomized into three groups: rehabilitation to improve motor and sensory strategies, rehabilitation to improve motor strategies, and treatment not aimed at improving balance. Similar to the current study, balance rehabilitation benefited patients. Fewer falls and better balance skills were seen in patients who received rehabilitation training.
Patients with three recognized forms of multiple sclerosis participated in the study: relapsing-remitting, primary-progressive, and secondary-progressive. The positive gain in balance skills suggests all multiple sclerosis patients may benefit from rehabilitation training organized by their healthcare provider.