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Two Different Types of High-frequency Physical Therapy Promote Improvements in the Balance and Mobility of Persons with Multiple Sclerosis

Brenda L. Davies, David J. Arpin, Min Liu, Heidi Reelfs, Kathleen G. Volkman, Kathleen Healey, Rana Zabad, Max J. Kurz

Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Available online 1 July 2016



To evaluate the mobility and postural balance improvements that could be achieved in a cohort of persons with multiple sclerosis (MS) who participated in a motor adaptation protocol and a cohort of persons with MS who participated in a therapeutic exercise protocol.


A cohort design, where subjects were evaluated before and after a 6-week intervention period.


Clinical laboratory setting.


Individuals (N=42) with relapsing-remitting or secondary progressive MS (Expanded Disability Status Scale [EDSS] scores, 3.0–6.5) were initially screened for eligibility for participation in the study, from which those who fit the inclusion criteria (n=32) were enrolled in the study. Subjects were pseudorandomly assigned to a treatment group and matched based on EDSS scores. Fourteen individuals in the motor adaptation cohort (MAC) (mean age ± SD, 52.6±9y; mean EDSS score ± SD, 5.5±0.9) and 13 individuals in the therapeutic exercise cohort (TEC) (mean age ± SD, 54.0±9y; mean EDSS score ± SD, 5.3±0.9) completed the entire duration of their respective programs.


Both cohorts completed their therapy twice a day, 5 days each week, for 6 weeks. Each session of the MAC program consisted of balance and gait training that encouraged new ways to adapt to challenging task demands. The TEC program was similar to a traditional exercise program.

Main Outcome Measures

The Sensory Organization Test, 6-minute walk test, and gait spatiotemporal kinematics.


Collectively, both treatment groups had improvements in postural balance (P=.001), walking endurance (P=.002), walking speed (P=.004), and step length (P<.001) after therapy. However, there were no statistical differences between the 2 treatment groups for any of the outcome variables (P values >.01).


Our exploratory results suggest that a high frequency of physical therapy rather than a specific activity focus might be an important parameter for persons with MS.

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About the Editors

  • Prof Timothy Vartanian

    Timothy Vartanian, Professor at the Brain and Mind Research Institute and the Department of Neurology, Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell...
  • Dr Claire S. Riley

    Claire S. Riley, MD is an assistant attending neurologist and assistant professor of neurology in the Neurological Institute, Columbia University,...
  • Dr Rebecca Farber

    Rebecca Farber, MD is an attending neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at the Neurological Institute, Columbia University, in New...

This online Resource Centre has been made possible by a donation from EMD Serono, Inc., a business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

Note that EMD Serono, Inc., has no editorial control or influence over the content of this Resource Centre. The Resource Centre and all content therein are subject to an independent editorial review.

The Grant for Multiple Sclerosis Innovation
supports promising translational research projects by academic researchers to improve understanding of multiple sclerosis (MS) for the ultimate benefit of patients.  For full information and application details, please click here

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