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Study Confirms that Cooling Garments Restore Function to People with MS

October 31, 2023

A new review of studies about the utility of cooling garments confirms that they are able to reduce the effects of heat sensitivity and even improve physical function in people with MS. See below for a list of equipment types and vendors.
  • Background: Many people with MS experience a temporary worsening of their symptoms when the weather is hot or humid, or when they run a fever. These temporary changes can result from even a slight elevation in core body temperature. An elevated temperature further impairs the ability of a nerve fiber that has lost its myelin coating to conduct electrical impulses. Physical activity and exercise can cause these changes as well, which is problematic since these can have significant benefits for people with MS.
  • This Study: Trials that carefully compare treatments, also known as randomized controlled trials, are the gold standard of research. A team from Southern Cross University in Australia analyzed 13 controlled trials testing the ability of cooling garments to improve physical function in people with MS. This kind of review that combines and analyzes results (“meta-analysis”) can be helpful when the medical literature is limited on a particular intervention.
  • Results: The combined studies included a total of 384 people with MS with a wide range of disability level. Cooling garments studied most often were liquid-perfused cooling vests/tops/hoods (which work by absorbing and storing water, and then releasing it over time), phase-change cooling vests (which use frozen non-toxic packs). A cooling thigh-cuff and a palm-cooling device were also studied, although less frequently.

    All of the cooling garments improved walking capacity and mobility. Some studies showed improvements in muscle strength and balance. Core temperature, skin temperature, thermal sensation and perceptions of fatigue all improved as well. These benefits were seen in warm as well as temperate weather, and with or without exercise being a factor.
  • Why does this matter? There is increasing awareness of the benefits of physical activity and exercise for MS, and it’s crucial to understand how increasing levels of such activity may affect people with MS. Heat sensitivity can impact the ability of people with MS to maintain levels of exercise and other physical activity. Cooling can help, according to this rigorous study.  
Learn more… The effect of cooling garments to improve physical function in people with  multiple sclerosis: A systematic review and meta-analysis” by  Christopher J. Stevens, Gurpreet Singh, Benjamin Peterson, Nicole T. Vargas, and Julien  D. P´eriard is published in MS and Related Disorders (2023;78:104912).

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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