(RxWiki News) In some patients, multiple sclerosis attacks the body in such a way that leg muscles begin to deteriorate, and many patients end up with a cane or walker before they reach old age.
But mobility problems often do not appear until the disease has progressed. Doctors have a hard time identifying mobility deficits, or muscle weakness until the symptoms became more obvious.
But according to a new study, a series of tests for muscle endurance and gait could identify future mobility problems in the early stages.
"Get tested for mobility deficits in the early stages of MS."
The study was led by Dr. Alon Kalron and colleagues at Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Multiple Sclerosis Centre in Sheba Medical Center. The researchers wanted to be able to quantify muscle fatigue, or when the muscles start to exhibit signs of weakness that leads to mobility problems.
They took 52 patients with MS and compared them to 28 healthy people. The study subjects were examined using an instrument that measures lower limb muscle endurance and strength.
The test was to bend and straighten a knee using the most strength they could muster, and maintain this position for 30 seconds.
Fatigue was calculated by how much muscle strength declined as they held the position. People in the MS group generally had a harder time maintaining their strength, and they showed 40 percent less endurance than the healthy group.
In addition to the strength test, the patients were tested for gait. Researchers looked at how far they spread their legs apart as they walked, the length of their steps, and how they moved.
They discovered abnormalities in the MS group compared to the healthy group. Patients with MS walked with their legs wider to improve their stability, compensating for their low muscle endurance.
Patients with MS also walked slower, with a shorter step.
Dr. Kalron said the advantage of detecting these abnormalities early on is that patients can begin early intervention programs. Interventions can be designed to maintain muscle endurance and improve balance, staving off the need for a cane or walker.
The study was published the Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy in January 2012.