Pilates for M.S.?

(This post first appeared as one of my columns on http://www.multiplesclerosistoday.com)

Have you tried Pilates to improve your mobility?  When my wife and I tried it, a few years ago, I thought that it was sort of like doing yoga stretches using exercise equipment.  It felt good and, for the short time that I did kept it up, Pilates seemed to improve my flexibility, somewhat.

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

Pilates Versus Traditional Exercise

In the Izmi study twenty MS patients were studied, 65% of them women.  Eleven did Pilates exercises and the remaining 9 exercised traditionally. People in both groups were, on average, in their late 40s and had a disability score of about 3 on the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS). (Someone with an EDSS score of 3 is pretty 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 sitting 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. The 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.

Pilates Versus Physical Therapy

Another study was conducted at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center.  This one compared Pilates with physical therapy. Forty-five MS patients participated with half receiving 12 week of outpatient PT 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.

How About You?

Interested in trying Pilates?  The Mayo Clinic has some excellent information about it on its web site.

Have you ever tried Pilates?  If so, did it help?  Please let me know about your experience.




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