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Pilates for MS

October 4, 2016

Pilates is a stretching and exercise program focusing on trunk muscles, and there’s plenty of evidence that, in healthy folks, it improves flexibility, balance and muscle endurance.  However, not many studies have examined whether people with MS receive the same benefits.  One of them was done by researchers at Izmi University in Turkey and published, last March, in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science.

In the Izmi study 20 patients took part, 65 percent of them women.  Of those, 11 did Pilates exercises and the remaining nine exercised traditionally. People in both groups were, on average, in their late 40s and had a disability score of about 3.0 on the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS). Someone with an EDSS score of 3.0 is considered mobile, with no impairment to walking. All of the patients had had MS for about 15 years.  The exercise program was organized in two weekly sessions, each 45–60 minutes long, for eight weeks.

That study found that both groups improved on all physical performance tests, including rolling to the left and right, sitting up from lying down and standing from sitting, as well as a 50-foot walking test.  The patients using Pilates, however, also improved their balance, had less fatigue, and improved their scores on a cognitive test. Patients who were doing traditional exercises improved their arm function and their performance on the timed up and go tests.  A second analysis found that cognition and quality of life were better only in the Pilates group.

Another study was conducted at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center.  This one compared Pilates with physical therapy. Here, 45 MS patients participated, with half receiving 12 weeks of outpatient physical therapy and the other half receiving Pilates sessions.

The results, published in Clinical Rehabilitation, showed that both groups had significantly increased their walking speed and the length of their walking strides. Overall, the researchers felt that both approaches helped MS patients.