Driving a focus on rehabilitation research
We choose investments with the best return in changing lives. Rehabilitation can help people with MS to achieve their physical, psychological, social and vocational potential. But to convince doctors and insurers that rehabilitation really does help, we need the kind of evidence that can only come from carefully designed and conducted scientific studies.
Despite the Society’s commitment to fund rehabilitation research, as recently as 2005 we weren’t getting enough high quality proposals to review. So the Society engaged some of the best and brightest in the rehab field at a workshop cosponsored by the NIH’s National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research, the MS Society of Canada, and the University of Washington MS Rehabilitation Research & Training Center. This talented group of MS specialists and rehabilitation experts focused on what was standing in the way of rigorous rehabilitation research and how to make the obstacles disappear.
The workshop spurred the Society to establish a new fellowship program to recruit and train talented clinician-scientists in MS rehabilitation research
. The fellowship program is “mentor-based,” meaning that we fund the mentor knowing that the mentor—the expert—will be most able to find student scientists with the greatest potential to be rehab researchers.
We are finding solutions that are changing lives
Now we are funding more than 30 projects in the area of rehabilitation research, testing these solutions and others so that people with MS can live their best life every day:
- investigating whether exercises specifically designed to improve inner ear function can improve balance and vision stability
- using video chatting to increase exercise in people with MS and decrease symptoms
- investigating whether a rehabilitation technique known as “feedback presentation” can relieve fatigue
- Testing a method of improving breathing and reducing the complications of breathing problems
We are making progress - here are some recent reports:
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have published findings showing that constraint-induced (CI) movement therapy – which involves immobilizing the arm that a person favors to promote increased use of the arm weakened by MS – improved limb function and showed evidence of restoring some brain connections in a study involving 20 people with MS. Read more
In a study of 44 people with MS who use wheelchairs or scooters, 75% reported falling at least once in any given 6-month period, and 66% reported curtailing activities because of concerns about falling. Now, with a research grant from the National MS Society, these researchers are developing a comprehensive therapeutic program designed to educate people with MS who use wheelchairs about how to prevent and recover (get up) from falls. Read more
A research team funded by the National MS Society found that a program of exercises focusing on balance, including eye and head movements and walking, improved balance, fatigue, cognition, dizziness and quality of life in people with MS significantly more than an untreated control group. Read more