The internet is full of miracle cures for every disease– and multiple sclerosis is no exception. Weird and wonderful herbs, high-tech gadgets and gizmos, magical diets, the latest life-transforming workout…the list goes on and on. Of course, very few are clinically proven to make a blind bit of difference, but sometimes, just sometimes, there’s a seemingly wacky idea that is grounded in science and could make life with MS a little bit easier. Here’s a round-up of the latest, most unusual approaches that might be coming to a clinic near you…
The Body And Mind Workout
Pilates has been around for some time, and there’s plenty of evidence the core-strengthening exercise can improve flexibility, balance, and muscle endurance in healthy people. Most recently, a new study by researchers in Turkey has demonstrated that clinical Pilates (a combination of Pilates and breathing exercises) has very real benefits in those with MS, too. In fact, MS patients who performed twice-weekly sessions for eight weeks improved on all physical performance tests, scoring higher in cognitive tests and quality of life measures than those who did traditional exercise workouts. More research is needed, but in the meantime, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to sign up to attend a class near you.
The Brain-Boosting Game
If you’ve noticed yourself becoming more forgetful, or you struggle to concentrate, then sitting down at your laptop could help. A study by researchers in New York, showed that regular sessions (an hour, five times a week) of cognitive remediation significantly improved mental performance in people with MS, compared with those who performed other exercises on the computer . So what is it exactly? The brain-training ‘games’ involve repeating specific exercises designed to boost neural connections in the brain and enhance cognitive abilities including attention, memory, mental speed, and intelligence . And the best bit of all – you don’t even have to leave the house to take part!
The Virtual Reality Regime
If working up a sweat exacerbates your symptoms, then staying cool in the pool could be the answer. Just watch out for sharks! John Quarles, an American computer science professor who has MS, has designed a form of aquatic physical therapy using virtual reality. Shark Punch involves attaching a waterproof smart phone to a mask, and another to your chest, allowing you to swim round the pool while fending of a virtual shark by punching it on the nose . The game is still in development, but hopefully it’s only a matter of time before it comes to a pool near you.
The Muscle Machine
A bit wobbly on your feet? Shaking up your workout could really help – and when we say shake we mean literally! There’s growing evidence that whole-body vibration therapy (where you stand or perform exercises on a vibrating plate) can improve muscle strength and mobility, by forcing the muscles to involuntarily contract and relax . In one study, published by the Multiple Sclerosis Trust, regular vibration sessions alongside traditional exercises, were more beneficial than exercise alone in reducing pain and muscle spasms. What’s more, those who took part reported fewer spasms at night, better quality of sleep, improved sensation in their feet, and being better able to climb stairs . Most gyms have vibration plates if you fancy giving it a go, but do speak to your doctor or physiotherapist first.
The 3D Walking Sensor
Scientists in Canada have developed a camera that analyses walking patterns using the same motion sensors used in interactive video games like tennis and dancing. It’s hoped the technology will enable doctors to monitor disease progression, determine how effective treatment is, and possibly even provide a helpful outcome measure in clinical trials . This technology is definitely one to keep your eye on!
So there we have it. Five weird and wonderful ways researchers are hoping to improve life for people with MS. OK, so none of them is a ‘cure’ – but it’s good to know the number of ways to manage MS is growing all the time. We’ll keep you posted on any developments, but in the meantime, let us know what works for you!