balance

Review Showcases Inconsistencies in MS Auditory, Vestibular Research

Abnormalities in the auditory and vestibular systems, which control hearing and balance, are frequently reported among people with multiple sclerosis (MS), a new study found. However, there is a substantial amount of variability in scientific studies that assess these abnormalities, making it difficult to draw an overarching conclusion about…

How Paw-fect Pets Improve Life With Chronic Illness

Having grown up in the countryside, I’ve been around animals my entire life. We always had dogs and cats, and I learned how to ride horses. It was tranquil and storybook. When I left home to take a trip or attend university, I experienced a void only the animals in…

The Jagged Edges of My Altered Reality

“You know that place between sleep and awake, that place where you still remember dreaming?” — James Matthew Barrie Being diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis significantly changed my perception of myself and the surrounding world. This drastic shift has been overwhelming and difficult to accept in many ways. The…

Do What You Can Do (And No More)

I don’t know about you, but last week passed in a blur. I typically enjoy Thanksgiving, but this year, things were a little wonky. My husband’s grandfather passed away a month or so ago, so we weren’t about to ask his grandmother to prepare anything. My mother-in-law and I decided…

Balance Is Relative

Multiple sclerosis has taught me many lessons over the last 16 years, and one of the most lasting ones has been about finding balance. I can’t run like a madwoman from one task to the next and not expect consequences. There has to be a balance between work and rest.

Study Will Explore Benefits of Tai Chi, Meditation on MS Patients’ Physical Balance

A pilot study has been launched to assess the immediate and enduring benefits of tai chi and mindfulness meditation on the physical balance and mental wellness of people with multiple sclerosis (MS). This community-based study — currently enrolling participants — is being conducted by the Motor Control Lab directed by Richard van Emmerik, PhD, professor of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The project was awarded a $54,972 one-year grant from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. While many MS symptoms vary from patient to patient, depending on the extent and location of the damage in the brain and spinal cord, difficulty in maintaining physical balance is a generalized complaint. Several MS symptoms can have an effect on balance, including difficulties with coordination, tremor and muscle weakness, stiffness, or dizziness and vertigo. "Mind-body interventions are beneficial as they train dynamic balance, such as transitioning between postures, turning, reaching, etc., in a manner similar to movements in daily life," Julianna Averill, a doctoral student at van Emmerik’s lab, said in a press release. Postural control and balance confidence is crucial to prevent patients' falls and reduce their fear of falling. Finding strategies that help patients cope and overcome this limitation is crucial, Averill noted. Contrary to other studies, which focus on mental health benefits, this project will look mostly at the effects of mindfulness practice on physical balance. Tai chi also will be evaluated for its potential to improve patients’ balance, both while they are standing and as they move. Participants will be randomly assigned to either eight weeks of free tai chi at YMAA Western Mass Tai Chi or mindfulness meditation classes at Downtown Mindfulness, in Hampshire County, Massachusetts. Tai chi is a Chinese martial art that involves body stretching and slow, focused, flowing postures that keep the body in motion. Mindfulness meditation is based on mindfulness practices, including training on body scan meditation, and loving kindness meditation. Participants will attend classes for 2.5 hours per week, where they will receive training to complete an additional 2.5 hours at home each week. At home, participants are asked to listen to meditation podcasts, or watch tai chi videos via a website that also tracks their activity. “The participants will be trained, and they will be able to practice on their own,” Averill said. Patients' postural sway will be recorded by wearable sensors while performing distinct movements at the study start, at the end of all classes, and two weeks later. On the same visits, participants will be surveyed to assess the frequency of falls, balance confidence, level of fatigue, and ability to cope and adapt. “We’re taking a more holistic look, considering the whole person and overall quality of life,” Averill said. The team plans to enroll 30 participants with mild-to-moderate MS symptoms, aged 21 to 70, and who are able to stand and move without assistance for 15 minutes. For more information about the study and how to participate, contact Averill at [email protected].

New Products Intended to Stimulate Feet of MS Patients

Naboso Technology has expanded its product offerings with new insoles and training mats specifically designed to stimulate the nervous system through the skin on the bottom of the feet. The products were developed to help improve balance, posture, movement and restore motor function, as part of a neurorehabilitation strategy…

Horseback Riding Plus Standard Care Can Help MS Patients Improve Balance, Other Symptoms

Therapeutic horseback riding, also known as hippotherapy, when combined with standard care regimens significantly reduces fatigue and spasticity in multiple sclerosis. It also improves balance and quality of life, according to a German study. Hippotherapy takes advantage of a horse's natural movements to develop a patient's muscle tone and improve breathing, while strengthening the torso muscles. Horseback riding also improves balance control, coordination and gait, while boosting a patient's social communication skills, which can benefit self-esteem. “Hippotherapy as a complementary treatment can be defined as one-patient-one-horse physiotherapy treatment with and on the horse,” researchers wrote. Team leaders Vanessa Vermöhlen and Petra Schiller of the University of Cologne evaluated the benefits of half-hour weekly sessions of hippotherapy in combination with standard care. They randomly assigned 70 MS patients with lower limb spasticity to either an intervention group that did 12 weeks of hippotherapy, or a control group that received only standard therapy. The team evaluated the impact therapeutic horseback riding had on balance, measured by the Berg Balance Scale (BBS). They also measured its effect on other multiple sclerosis symptoms and signs, including fatigue, quality of life, pain, and spasticity. Overall, the team found that those who received hippotherapy plus standard care improved their BBS scores by 4.8 points after six weeks of therapy, and 6.4 by the trial's end. These increases were significantly higher than those achieved by the control group (2.9 points at six weeks and 3.1 points at 12 weeks). Although this represents a difference of only 3.3 points after 12 weeks, it still reflects a relevant change in patients' balance control capabilities, the authors said. In addition, the researchers also recognized significant improvements in fatigue, spasticity and quality of life of those undergoing hippotherapy plus standard care compared to those on the control group. The observed beneficial effects of hippotherapy validate previous reports that showing that activities with horses could help adults and children improve their balance, gait and psychomotor abilities.

How to Improve MS-Related Imbalance

One of the earliest symptoms that appeared before my multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis was imbalance. I remember turning my head to look at something and feeling slightly off-balance. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but that wobbly sensation gradually increased through the years. Occasionally, I…