Yoga May Benefit MS Patients

Yoga may improve walking balance and motor skills in multiple sclerosis patients according to new pilot study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Yoga is well known to promote relaxation and flexibility. But it may also relieve some multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms.

In MS, inflammation attacks the covering of nerves and makes movement harder and more painful for patients.

A group of MS patients who took part in a small study found that yoga increased their coordination, balance and walking ability, as well as their quality of life.

"If you have MS, talk to your neurologist before trying yoga."

Susan Gould Fogerite, PhD, director of research for the Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, led a small study that looked at the effect of yoga on patients with MS.

Fourteen women with MS practiced yoga for 90 minutes twice a week for two months. The patients were between 34 and 64 years old. The yoga poses were meant to help the women relax and focus, as well as improve their posture and increase their stamina.

By eight weeks, the women showed improvements in walking for short distances and longer amounts of time. They also had better balance while reaching backward and in moving from sitting to standing.

The patients also noted better concentration, improved mental health, and less pain and fatigue.

Over 2.3 million people have MS worldwide. Women are diagnosed two to three times more often than men, according to a Rutgers press release.

“Yoga is not currently being widely prescribed for people with MS, although it might turn out to be a very helpful treatment," Dr. Fogerite said in the press release.

"Multiple sclerosis is a chronic central nervous system inflammatory condition in which there is a cumulative burden on a patient’s motor, cognitive and emotional function," said Sadat Shamim, MD, Director of Inpatient Neurology and Neurophysiology at the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. "Physical and psychological therapies have been an important part of MS treatment, and this study corroborates the need for a multidisciplinary approach to attacking this life dictating disease.

According to Dr. Shamim, "The effects of yoga have long been loosely described in the general public in regards to stress and physical benefits. [Dr. Fogerite and colleagues] have been able to quantifiably show some improvement in inflammatory, mental health and physical function markers in patients who were treated with yoga therapy. It remains unknown if the therapy affects the pathological progression of the disease, but symptomatic improvement in this chronic condition is, in itself, an important goal."

The results of the pilot study will be presented Sept. 26 at a poster session at the Symposium on Yoga Research at the Kripalu Institute in Massachusetts.

The research was funded by a private grant from Hugh Evans, MD, of the New Jersey Medical School, grants from the Rutgers School of Health Related Professions and the New Jersey Health Foundation. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
September 9, 2014
Last Updated:
September 11, 2014