Determination of the effectiveness of a community based exercise program, Tai Chi, for people with multiple sclerosis, a pilot program
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BACKGROUND: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) a progressive demyelinating disease of the central nervous system affects 2,300,000 people worldwide. Impaired balance is seen in up to 75% of individuals with MS which can lead to falls and further disability. Tai Chi, a form of martial arts, involves slow controlled movements and deep breathing. The physical benefits of Tai Chi include improved balance and flexibility.METHODS: Participants were recruited from the surrounding metropolitan area. Inclusion criteria were: diagnosis of MS, ages 18-75, able to understand the informed consent, attend Tai Chi class, and attend a 60-120 minute testing session before and after the six week class. Activity was approved by the IRB at Texas Woman’s University. Pre-testing included completion of the intake form, Timed Up and Go (TUG), Berg Balance Scale (BBS), Five-Times-Sit-to-Stand (5TSTS), Dynamic Gait Index (DGI), and Activities-specific Balance Confidence Scale (ABC). Post-testing included the TUG, BBS, 5TSTS, DGI, and the ABC. The intervention was a 6 form Community-based Tai Chi program. Class was twice a week for one hour at a personal training gym.RESULTS: Twenty-five participants completed the pre-testing. Only 15 participants returned for post-testing. All types of MS were represented. Data analysis using the Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test identified significant improvement in the BBS (p=0.003), the TUG (p=0.018), and the 5TSTS (p=0.003).CONCLUSIONS: A community based Tai Chi program identified improvements in balance in the BBS, and TUG. Strength improvements were seen in the 5TSTS. Benefits identified warrant further studies using Tai Chi to improve balance and strength.