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MS Society on Recent Research on Gait and Movement Problems

February 7, 2018

Walking and balance difficulties are common among multiple sclerosis patients and are a big factor that affects their quality of life, even when disease progression does not seem to be present on scans or other measures of MS advances.

The National MS Society used the meeting’s topics to issue a news release that reminded MS patients of the importance of exercise and good diet. They also do this to call attention to the need for greater research into these areas as well as to note studies supporting on ways to improve gait and balance.

Nearly 100 researchers, clinicians, engineers and others from various countries with a focus on walking difficulties and rehabilitation strategies for MS at the 7th International Symposium on Gait and Balance in MS. Topics discussed at the symposium included how to improve rehabilitation strategies for gait and motor dysfunction.

Some research the society is supporting has also been included here, in their release. The research includes ongoing and recruiting, recently completed or those nearing an end in regards to rehabilitation practices that might improve gait, balance, cognition and diet.

Other research included in the society’s release includes:

A study led by Geetanjali Gera, with Oregon Health & Science University, reports that “postural response” is impaired in MS patients. Problems in this study were found to be associated with slower conduction of nerve impulses in the cerebellum, where coordination is meant to be regulated. Investigators suggest rehabilitation approaches should focus on improving the timing of “postural responses” in order to reduce a person’s risk of falling.

Bryan D. Loy, also from Oregon Health & Science University, analyzed the impact of diet on gait in 38 women with MS. Although there was no particular link between gait and specific nutrients, such as fat, carbohydrates or proteins, an increase of consumed calories was shown to correlate with longer stride length, faster gait speed and less time requiring double supports.

Research led by Valerie Block at University of California San Francisco observed “real world” physical activity data on patients. This was collected using wrist-worn accelerometers, where 80 patients were tracked for one year and displayed a decline of 10.7 percent on their daily step count. This drop in step count was used to measure disease progression, even in those who had stable clinical scores using standard scales of measurement for disease progression.

Also conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, Jessica Gadayan compared the balance in 64 MS patients and 42 patients with Parkinson’s disease. Those with MS had a tendency to lose balance more often, although both MS and Parkinson’s patients struggled with balance when moving left or right more often than forward or backward. With these results, researchers stated that tailored strategies can be designed for each patient.

Research led by Afolasade Fakolade at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario assessed the needs and physical priorities in regards to the physical activity of MS patients. The study involved the use of wearable accelerometers, focus groups and a survey, and found that MS patients as well as their caregivers spent 74 percent of their day in sedentary behavior.
The National MS Society states that effective rehabilitation strategies to improve balance and gait in MS patients are essential.