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MS sufferers feel the benefits of vibration trial

Friday. October 7, 2008

MS sufferers feel the benefits of vibration trial

A trial to determine the benefits of vibration therapy for Multiple Sclerosis sufferers is having an immediate impact on participants, one stating that she could feel her feet again, and another saying the treatment left her legs tingling and buzzing like they hadn’t felt in years.

Study supervisor Dr Steve Stannard says the trial was devised to see whether side-to-side alternating vibration therapy was able to assist MS sufferers, who often became unable to move their muscles normally due to damage caused in the central nervous system.

“People with MS have a neural condition which means that their brain often can’t generate enough neural input to have their muscles contract and move in a fully co-ordinated way,” Dr Stannard says. “The vibration stimulus is thought to cause a reflex contraction of muscle so in MS patients this might be therapeutic – it’s a way of side-stepping the brain and making the muscles contract.”

Early childhood lecturer Therese Trail is one of the study’s first participants. Although she has been diagnosed with MS for nine years, she believes she has had it for much longer.

“I look well but there’s a lot of things I can no longer do,” she says. “I can’t walk round the block but I do what I can at the gym.”

She says that the therapy gives her “a good shake”.

“I do think that on the days I have the treatment I can walk a little better – it makes my legs all tingly.”

Rachael Mason is conducting the trial as her Masters of Science Exercise Physiology project.

“We wanted to apply vibration therapy to a group who could benefit the most,” she says. “People with MS, because they can’t use their muscles in a fully co-ordinated way, often don’t get any physical activity. Some of the health problems they end up with are in fact related to the fact they are not exercising so there is real potential for these people.”

Ms Mason says that after graduating from Massey with a Bachelors degree in medical laboratory science, she started a postgraduate diploma in exercise physiology when this project came to her attention.

“It just appealed to me because this was a very relevant study for young women, it is a quite debilitating illness which often affects women in their early 20s.”

Ms Mason is working with MidCentral Health rehabilitation specialist Dr Greg Denny. He is completing detailed medical assessments of participants, before the therapy to ascertain their physical ability level.

“Dr Denny does a full medical screening and a neurological examination. The disability can be broken down into seven components and, from there people’s function can be graded as either normal or with a particular degree of disability.” Ms Mason says. “We then do a series of functional tests before and after participation in the study so we can see whether vibration therapy has been beneficial.”

Participants must meet strict criteria to ensure the trial is safe and appropriate for them. With the first sessions underway, detailed results are expected early next year.

The research has received funding from the Palmerston North Hospital Medical Research Foundation and is being supported by the local Multiple Sclerosis Society, with therapy sessions taking place in its Carnation House centre. The vibration equipment has been supplied by Massey. Professor Elwyn Firth, a musco-skeletal researcher, and vibration therapy expert Darryl Cochrane, who is completing his PhD in vibration therapy, are also supervising the trial.

Manawatu Multiple Sclerosis Society field officer Kristin Leslie says the society is looking at purchasing its own machine in order to make vibration therapy available for more members.

“I think because there’s no cure for MS anything that may benefit our members is good,” Mrs Leslie says. “Hopefully this trial will prove to be beneficial,, improving people’s mobility and balance and leading to a better quality of life.

“We would like our own machine so other people, especially people who are more disabled than current participants, can benefit.”


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