Research reveals electrical stimulation cycling could help with MS symptoms
Research reveals electrical stimulation cycling could help with MS symptomsArticle from November 2019 edition of Intouch eNewsletter

In addition to being good for overall health, exercise training has been shown to have added benefits for people living with multiple sclerosis. These studies have reported improvements in issues such as balance, fatigue, mobility, psychological symptoms
and fitness. At this stage, most of the research has focused on people living with multiple sclerosis who have lower levels of disability. As people with more advanced disability may experience more difficulties with their mobility, it is necessary to conduct exercise trials that incorporate specialised training techniques that overcome these problems.

One type of exercise program that has been tested over more recent times is Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) cycling. This technique involves providing electrical impulses to muscles in the legs to help them perform the necessary movements for cycling. Cycling is a particularly useful strategy, as it allows participants to undertake the training while sitting, in either a chair or a wheelchair. The use of this for people living with multiple sclerosis has recently been reviewed and summarised by American researchers.

Currently, all of the studies that have been conducted on FES cycling for people living with multiple sclerosis have been relatively small (less than 15 participants). Although the size of these trials means that it is difficult to read too much into their findings, the results have been encouraging. Firstly, there has been very little in the way of negative side-effects reported from the studies associated with the cycling program. Secondly, they have started to show that using this exercise training can result in -decreased pain, fatigue and spasticity, as well as improvements in cognitive performance.

As this is very early research, it is important to wait and see if these benefits do prove to be real when studied in larger groups. However, it is exciting to see that studies are being undertaken into lifestyle strategies that can have positive impacts on many symptoms for people living with multiple sclerosis. In this instance, it is particularly pleasing to see that the approach used can help people with higher levels of disability and/or progressive disease. 

Article written by Brett Drummond, MStranslate.

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