In MS, Pilates with relaxation efforts helps with walking, self-awareness…

Pilates and MS

Pilates exercise with relaxation techniques improves walking ability and self-awareness among people with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to one small study.

Learning, “Impact of Pilates suspension with self-awareness on gait and metacognition in multiple sclerosis: a randomized, single-blind and parallel group trial,” published in EXPLORE.

Difficulty walking is often the first symptom of MS, an autoimmune disorder caused by immune-mediated damage to the brain and spinal cord.

Physical exercise can improve fitness and relieve MS symptoms. Pilates is a low-impact form of mind-body exercise that involves proper movement and breathing techniques to strengthen muscles and improve balance. Studies show it can improve gait disturbances in MS.

Relaxation techniques can aid metacognition, awareness of one’s thought processes, which results in better physical performance.

Researchers in Iran designed a small study to evaluate the impact of relaxation techniques combined with Pilates suspension training (PST), a type of resistance training that uses a series of ropes to work against body weight.

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Benefits of Pilates, relaxation techniques in MS

The researchers enrolled 22 women with MS (mean age, 44.3) and divided them into three groups – two intervention groups, each receiving PST plus a different relaxation technique, and an untreated control group.

Led by a certified suspension Pilates instructor, the researchers used the CoreAlign apparatus, first on the mat, then sitting and standing. Three exercises were implemented – Good Morning, Turtle, and Hoof, all designed to improve core stability by stretching and mobility of the lower body muscles.

Benson relaxation is a mental self-awareness technique in which participants sit comfortably, close their eyes, relax all muscles, inhale through their nose and exhale through their mouth. The patients in this group were asked to repeat “I” while ignoring intrusive thoughts and staying in the moment.

The second method is Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation for physical self-awareness. As part of that, participants lay down in a quiet room and were asked to contract and release their muscles. They also control breathing while focusing on tensing and releasing the muscles.

Sessions are held at the patient’s home, with PST plus mindfulness exercises consisting of three weekly 60-minute sessions over seven weeks. Dynamic gait index (DGI) was used to assess gait, while self-awareness was measured by the metacognition-30 questionnaire (MCQ-30).

The women who underwent PST plus Benson’s relaxation showed a significant increase in the DGI score for gait compared with before treatment (14.57 vs 9.42). The MCQ-30 score in this group was also significantly higher after the intervention (80.28 vs 71.42), indicating improved metacognition.

Similar findings were observed for PST plus Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation on the DGI score (15.12 vs. 10.37) and the MCQ-30 score (81.25 vs. 76.75).

Both relaxation techniques plus PST scores were significantly better than no treatment, with patients in the control group showing no change before and after treatment in DGI (10.14 vs. 10.42) and MCQ-30 (73.14 vs. 73) scores. , 71).

“This treatment could top the list of treatment protocols for [people with MS] to prevent recurrence and improve characteristics and treatment,” said the researchers. “It is hoped that this study can be expanded in future studies, to include male participants and also to use alternative approaches to measuring the effects of Pilates interventions such as objective measures for evaluation of balance performance.”

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