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Benefits From Physical Therapy Last After MS Patients Return Home

ST. PAUL, MN -- Jan. 21, 1999 -- Hospital physical rehabilitation programs have a positive effect on multiple sclerosis patients that lasts after they return home, according to two new studies published in the current issue of the journal Neurology.

One study followed 50 British MS patients for a year after they participated in rehabilitation. Even though the patients' disease symptoms worsened, the rehabilitation improved the patients' ability to function physically and socially for six months. Patients reported a positive effect on their overall quality of life for 10 months.

"This study underlines the importance of rehabilitation in conditions such as MS, which are chronic and progressive," said neurologist and study author Alan Thompson, FRCP, of the Institute of Neurology in London.

Thompson said the study points to the need for more co-ordination among inpatient programs, outpatient care and community services, such as home health care aides.

"Although the study showed that the benefits of rehabilitation continued, it also showed that they tended to wear off after a number of months," he said. "In our experience, the strength of the support system patients return to directly impacts the long-term success of the rehabilitation program."

The British study is further supported by an Italian study showing that physical therapy improves MS patients' functioning in daily activities and their quality of life after returning home.

In a 15-week study, 27 MS patients participated in a three-week inpatient physical therapy program, then were taught exercises to do at home. As a control group, another 23 MS patients were taught the home exercises but received no inpatient physical therapy.

The patients were evaluated at the beginning of the study, then after three, nine and 15 weeks. After three weeks, 48 percent of those in physical therapy improved their ability to function in daily activities such as dressing and bathing, compared to nine percent of those on the home exercise program. At nine weeks, the numbers were 44 percent and 4 percent.

The patients who underwent the physical therapy also reported an improvement in their mental and emotional quality of life three and nine weeks after the study started.

Thanks to The Doctor's Guide to the Internet™ for the article


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