Balance problems and fatigue are common in MS, leading to falls and limited mobility. MS can also cause vision problems which may lead to inappropriate movement corrections that can exacerbate balance problems.
A newly published study, authored by Jeffrey R. Hebert of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, involved eighty eight people with MS who were able to walk 100 meters with no more assistance than using a cane or other device on one side.
They completed assessments of their balance, fatigue and dizziness. Half of the group then completed six weeks of supervised exercises twice a week, as well as being given instructions for exercising every day at home; for the next eight weeks, they had one supervised exercise session each week, plus the daily exercises at home.
All participants were tested after six weeks and again at the end of the program.
The exercises included balancing on different surfaces and while walking, both with and without head movements and eyes open and closed, as well as eye movement exercises to help improve visual stability, it was reported in the journal Neurology.
After six weeks, the people who had completed the exercise program had improved in their balance compared to the control group.
On a computer-based balance test where healthy adults with no balance issues reach a score of around 90 or better out of 100, the scores of those who completed the exercise program went from an average of 63 at the start of the program to an average of 73 at six weeks, compared to scores of 62 at the start to 66 at the end for the control group. The improvements were still evident at the end of the study.
Researchers said further studies are needed to determine whether improvements can be sustained.