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Society-Supported Work Group Promotes Wellness Research Agenda

February 7, 2017

Update on the Activities of the National MS Society Wellness Research Work Group
  • The Wellness Research Work Group, established by the National MS Society, has published a new article on gaps and priorities in MS wellness research.
  • Plans are also underway for informing health care providers and people affected by MS about methods used in clinical trials of wellness research.
  • This group was convened at a 2015 meeting. Their primary mission is to provide scientific evidence to support lifestyle, behavioral, and psychosocial approaches for promoting wellness – that is, optimal health of mind, body, and spirit – in people living with MS.
Background: Wellness – and the strategies needed to achieve it – is a high priority for people living with MS. People want to know what they can do today to feel their best, and whether lifestyle interventions can impact the course of the disease. In the pursuit of personal wellness, however, people with MS have felt frustrated by a lack of support from healthcare professionals, who say there is not sufficient scientific evidence to provide guidance in this area.
As part of its ongoing wellness initiative, the National MS Society convened a group of researchers with experience in MS and wellness-related research, as well as a person living with MS, to develop recommendations regarding unmet needs and opportunities in wellness-related research. This group met in Washington, DC in October 2015, and the Wellness Research Work Group was established at that meeting – read more. The group’s primary mission is to promote scientific evidence to support lifestyle, behavioral, and psychosocial approaches for promoting wellness – that is, optimal health of mind, body, and spirit – in people living with MS.
Update on Wellness Research Work Group: A report of the meeting that launched this group has now been published in the MS Journal (Read the open-access paper, published early online January 12, 2017). The publication sets forth the key questions that this group deems most important in promoting wellness research in MS, focusing on the areas of diet, exercise, and emotional wellness:
  • Diet –
    • Using small trials, to what extent do specific comprehensive diets, balanced diets, good nutrition, and specific nutrients affect physical health and the course of MS?
    • What are the optimal ways to help people with MS adopt or maintain specific dietary regimens?
    • What are the most valid and reliable nutrient biomarkers to utilize in studies of diet?
    • What role do gut bacteria play in the course of MS?
  • Exercise –
    • To what extent does exercise and physical activity affect emotional health, physical health, quality of life, and the course of MS?
    • What are the optimal ways to promote exercise and physical activity?
    • What safety issues are involved?
    • What are the best approaches to exercise and physical activity for people with MS, including those with more advance disease?
    • What are the best methods for translating findings from exercise and physical activity research to the daily life of people with MS?
    • How can we increase participation in physical activity among people with MS? 
  • Emotional wellness –
    • To what extent do resilience, positive psychology, stress management and problem solving affect emotional health and the course of MS?
    • What are optimal ways to promote these strategies?
The new publication also delineates the steps this group is taking to answer these questions:
• Promoting and supporting high-quality wellness research;
• Using the findings from this wellness research to inform the Society, clinicians and other stakeholders in developing programs that help people adopt and maintain lifestyles, behaviors, and psychosocial approaches that promote wellness;
• Attracting scientists within and outside the field of MS research to become more interested and skilled in wellness research in MS;
• Developing guidelines and best practices for conducting research on wellness in MS.
The Wellness Research Work Group has started its work on these priorities, meeting monthly via teleconference to maintain momentum. They will present a workshop at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Consortium of MS Centers, “Wellness in MS: Methodology for Clinical Studies,” to educate attendees about how to maintain quality in clinical trials of wellness approaches. The Work Group also has developed a plan for reviewing, updating, and adding to wellness materials of the Society, so that these materials can be used for continuing medical education for healthcare providers.
Read more
Read the open-access paper in the MS Journal
Wellness is a lifelong journey – read more about this road for a person living with MS

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.


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