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Study Shows Inhaling Exercises Improve Breathing in People with MS

October 20, 2020

Researchers in Spain found in a small, 12-week trial that low-resistance inhaling (“inspiratory”) exercises were better than standard respiratory exercises for improving breathing in a study of 67 people with MS.
  • Breathing problems, such as loss of strength and endurance of respiratory muscles, tend to be common and yet under recognized in people with MS. This can lead to pneumonia but also, increases fatigue and interferes with daily activities and speech, so finding better ways to treat breathing problems in people with MS is important for improving quality of life.
  • Participants were drawn from individuals seen at two clinics. At the beginning of the study, participants on average showed weakness in breathing tests compared to the general population. Half of the participants were assigned to low-resistance inhaling exercises and half to more conventional breathing exercises for 12 weeks.
  • The low-resistance inhaling group breathed in through their mouths using a device that controls the airflow. The conventional group breathed in through their noses and exhaled through their mouths in a series of standard exercises that focus on the use of muscles in the diaphragm or chest.
  • The exercises were done at home, unsupervised, for 15 minutes per day, 5 days per week.
  • At the end of the study, both groups showed improvements in breathing muscle strength, but those in the low-resistance group also had significant reductions in shortness of breath (dyspnea). There was no follow-up after the study to determine how long the benefits of the exercises lasted.
  • Get tips for breathing exercises that you can do now. Breathing problems can occur early in the course of MS; your healthcare provider can refer you to a respiratory therapy program if necessary. 
Effects of 12-week inspiratory muscle training with low resistance in patients with multiple sclerosis: A non-randomised, double-blind, controlled trial,” by Drs. Carlos Martin Sanchez, Jose I. Calvo Arenillas and colleagues (University of Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain), was published in Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders (Early online October 7, 2020).

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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