Healthcast: Multiple Sclerosis Therapy

News
Multiple sclerosis or MS, is a chronic disease affecting the central nervous system.

People with MS can have fatigue, muscle pain or weakness and difficulty with motion.

There is no cure, but researchers at one of the country’s top rehabilitation institutes are studying massage techniques to see if m-s patients can find relief.

Shavonne Thurman was in her twenties when numbness in her abdomen and double vision sent her to the doctor. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which has slowly progressed.
“It comes, it goes, you never know. You just wake up and it’s like oops! Today my legs don’t want to work,” he said.

Shavonne is taking part in a clinical trial, testing the effects of massage on m-s patients.

“In MS in particular the myelin around your nerves is affected. So it sets up a kind of a feedback loop that makes your muscles tighten that’s not under your control.”

For this study, therapists are using swedish massage techniques, long, even strokes that are easy to reproduce. 25 patients will receive therapy once a week for six weeks.

Researchers want to measure the impact of massage on spasticity, involuntary muscle tightness.

“How long you feel the effect is going to be different for each person,” Christina Manella, a PT Massage Therapist said.

Deborah Backus is the Director of MS research. She also wants to know if massage helps patients manage the stress of having a chronic disease.

“MS it’s been shown that the fatigue, the pain, it really is closely related with depression, psychological stress, which really impacts the quality of life,” Backus said.

Researchers at the Shepherd Center say there has been little prior research evaluating the use of massage therapy in MS, although the benefits of massage on patients with other diseases like chronic fatigue syndrome have been established.

Many health insurance plans do not cover massage for MS or other chronic diseases, but researchers are hoping that further studies may help change that.

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a chronic disease affecting the central nervous system. People with MS can have fatigue, muscle pain or weakness and difficulty with motion. There is no cure, but researchers at one of the country’s top rehabilitation institutes are studying massage techniques to see if MS patients can find relief.
Shavonne Thurman was in her twenties when numbness in her abdomen and double vision sent her to the doctor. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis which has slowly progressed.
Thurman told Ivanhoe, “It comes, it goes, you never know. You just wake up and it’s like, today my legs don’t want to work.”
Shavonne is taking part in a clinical trial testing the effects of massage on MS patients.
Christina Manella, PT, Massage Therapist at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia told Ivanhoe, “In MS in particular, the myelin around your nerves is affected. So it sets up a feedback loop that makes your muscles tighten that’s not under your control.”
For this study, therapists are using Swedish massage techniques which are long, even strokes that are easy to reproduce. Twenty-five patients will receive therapy once a week for six weeks.
Researchers want to measure the impact of massage on spasticity, which is involuntary muscle tightness.
“How long you feel the effect is going to be different for each person,” Manella explained.
Deborah Backus, PT, PhD, Director of Multiple Sclerosis Research at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia also wants to know if massage helps patients manage the stress of having a chronic disease.
Backus told Ivanhoe, “With MS it’s been shown that the fatigue and the pain is closely related with depression and psychological stress, which really impacts the quality of life.”
Thurman said, “The massages helped to relax and clear my body so I wasn’t stressed for the rest of the day.”
Researchers at the Shepherd Center say there has been little prior research evaluating the use of massage therapy in MS, although the benefits of massage on patients with other diseases like chronic fatigue syndrome have been established. Many health insurance plans do not cover massage for MS or other chronic diseases, but researchers are hoping that further studies may help change that.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer/ Field Producer, Jamison Koczan, Videographer/Editor and Cortni Spearman, Assistant Producer.





BACKGROUND: There are more than 400,000 people in the United States living with Multiple Sclerosis, or MS. MS is a disease of the nervous system and is more common in females than males. The signs of MS typically start to appear around age 30. In MS, the body’s immune system attacks the protective covering, called myelin, of your nerves. This impairs the communication between the brain and the rest of the body. In severe cases, patients lose the ability to walk. Other symptoms of MS include numbness or weakness in one or more limbs, slurred speech, blurred vision, tremor, fatigue and dizziness. Sometimes, the disease goes into remission, and the patient has no new symptoms for a time.
(Source: http://multiplesclerosis.net/what-is-ms/statistics/, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/basics/definition/CON-20026689 )

TREATMENT: There is no known cure for MS, but there are therapies that can help reduce the effects of the disease. MS can be debilitating, but it is rarely fatal. Some of the possible treatments of MS include:
* Corticosteroids
* Plasma exchange
* Beta interferons
* Physical therapy
* Muscle relaxants
* Glatiramer acetate
* Immunosuppressant drugs
(Source: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/basics/treatment/con-20026689)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: A new clinical trial is showing that massage may also be added to that list of treatments in the future. The trial involves using Swedish massage techniques on patients with MS for one hour weekly for six weeks. “MS can be very stressful for patients because they don’t always know what’s coming next,” Christina Manella, PT, LMT, therapy manager in Shepherd Center’s MS Institute said in a press release for the institute. “This type of study helps us look at the whole person because a patient might be on the right medication and be physically fine based on [functional brain] MRIs, but if they are stressed out, it’s going to affect their health.”
(Source: http://news.shepherd.org/massage-may-provide-healing-relief-for-people-with-multiple-sclerosis)

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS REPORT, PLEASE CONTACT:
Katie Malone
404-367-1306
Katie_malone@shepherd.org


If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com


Deborah Backus, P.T., Ph.D., Director of Multiple Sclerosis Research at the Shepherd Center, Atlanta, talks about massage therapy improving the quality of life for patients with MS.
Interview conducted by Ivanhoe Broadcast News in March 2015.

Can you explain MS for those who aren’t familiar with the condition?
Dr. Backus: MS is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system, the brain and the spinal cord. It disrupts the flow of information in the brain and the spinal cord which leads to trouble in the rest of the body. Symptoms are things like fatigue and pain, cognitive deficits, depression, weakness, paralysis and walking disability which is what people most commonly think of when they think of MS.
What are some of the muscle conditions that go along with MS?
Dr. Backus: The muscle conditions include paralysis, weakness and spasticity, or really tight muscles that people can’t just relax voluntarily. So, it makes it very difficult for them to move freely and effectively. At times, it can cause a lot of pain and additional fatigue.
Is there a cure?
Dr. Backus: No, right now there’s no cure for MS. There are therapies that people can receive, disease modifying therapies, are drugs that can slow the progression. But, they really don’t treat the symptoms of MS which are fatigue, pain and spasticity, which really lead to problems in their daily life.
The best option is to treat those symptoms?
Dr. Backus: That’s right. We’re really interested primarily in treating fatigue. Fatigue is one of the most commonly reported symptoms of MS. It affects participation in recreational, employment and social activities.





In what way is massage therapy beneficial for a patient with MS?
Dr. Backus: Massage has been shown in other patient populations with chronic disease, such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, to decrease the pain, fatigue, depression and anxiety. Our hope is that people with MS can decrease their fatigue, increase their participation and improve their quality of life with massage therapy.
How long could the benefits of massage therapy last?
Dr. Backus: That’s what we’re measuring. They will receive therapy once a week for six weeks and then we’ll assess them each week to see how long the benefits lasted. This will enable us to have a better understanding of how it will work for them.
Tell me about this study.
Dr. Backus: Each individual is evaluated before they start the study so we can have a good understanding of their fatigue as well as some other symptoms like pain, depression and quality of life. Then, they will come in for a massage one time a week for six weeks and at the end of that, they’ll be evaluated again. Each week they’re asked about different symptoms to make sure they’re getting something from the massage and that we’re not doing any harm.
Has this study been replicated anywhere else? Has anyone looked at the numbers before?
Dr. Backus: Not in this way. Not in looking at fatigue and quality of life the way we are.
Is it modeled after other massage conditions?
Dr. Backus: Studies have been done in individuals with other chronic conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. We are assessing some of the same variables. But, we are really trying to come up with an approach that people will find is affordable and accessible and that they can access outside of the rehabilitation and special therapies.
Can you tell me why you are using Swedish massages for this study?
Dr. Backus: That was determined based on the other studies showing the effect of the deeper massage. What we had to do was come up with a type of massage that would work for everyone and that could address the kinds of impairments that people with MS have. So, that’s how we chose that specific protocol.



Are there any implications?
Dr. Backus: If we find that massage therapy is beneficial for people with MS, it gives them another option. Fatigue is such a big problem for them that it affects everything they do. If we can find something they can access in their community that isn’t too expensive, then they have another option to have a better quality of life.
Do you have any early indications that this might be a good way to go?
Dr. Backus: Well, everybody enjoys their massage and we haven’t caused any harm thus far. We are hearing that people have less pain, but we are not able to look at the numbers until the end of the study.
There’s no harm in getting a massage?
Dr. Backus: No. There’s no harm and we’ve had no difficulty trying to find subjects. Everybody wants to volunteer for our study.
For viewers in another part of the country that might have these symptoms, is there really no harm to see if this is temporary?
Dr. Backus: Right. There’s no harm in massage. No one’s reported any detrimental effects even for people with MS. And, massage makes everybody feel better. We just want to see if it has a meaningful effect so that it can really improve the lives of people with MS.
What does it do for the muscles and the spasticity?
Dr. Backus: Chronic illness has shown that the pain of fatigue is closely related with depression and psychological stress, which really impacts the quality of life. So, our hope is that massage will decrease that physical psychological stress and improve participation and overall quality of life and health.
So, overall well-being?
Dr. Backus: Exactly. Why should having MS mean that you can’t have a good quality of life and not feel like participating in everyday activities? If massage can help that, then we’ve accomplished our job.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Dr. Backus: The only thing I did want to say was the importance of the psychological and social aspect and not just the physical. Massage offers that opportunity and I think that’s really important.

END OF INTERVIEW



This information is intended for additional research purposes only. It is not to be used as a prescription or advice from Ivanhoe Broadcast News, Inc. or any medical professional interviewed. Ivanhoe Broadcast News, Inc. assumes no responsibility for the depth or accuracy of physician statements. Procedures or medicines apply to different people and medical factors; always consult your physician on medical matters.



If you would like more information, please contact:

Katie Malone
PR, Shepherd Center
404-367-1306
Katie_malone@shepherd.org

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