Improve Multiple Sclerosis with Meditation and Yoga
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Studies show that for some people with MS, chronic exposure to stress is associated with worsening neurological symptoms and increased brain lesions. Researchers believe that mindfulness may help people better respond to stress by fostering healthier coping strategies. Mindfulness practice appears to be a safe, drug-free approach to coping with stress and anxiety, which may in turn help reduce your MS symptoms.” – Amit Sood
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a progressive demyelinating disease which attacks the coating on the neural axons which send messages throughout the body and nervous system. It affects about 2 million people worldwide and about 400,000 in the U.S. It is most commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 50 years. Unfortunately, there is no cure for multiple sclerosis. There are a number of approved medications that are used to treat MS but are designed to lessen frequency of relapses and slow the progression of the disease, but they don’t address individual symptoms.
Although there is a progressive deterioration, MS is not fatal with MS patients having about the same life expectancy as the general population. Hence, most MS sufferers have to live with the disease for many years. So, quality of life becomes a major issue. Quality of life with MS is affected by fatigue, cognitive decrements, physical impairment, depression, and poor sleep quality. There is a thus a critical need for safe and effective methods to help relieve the symptoms of MS and improve quality of life.
Mindfulness practices have been previously shown to improve depression, sleep quality, cognitive impairments, emotion regulation, and fatigue. It has also been shown to improve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Yoga is a mindfulness practice that has the added feature of exercising and stretching the muscles. It would seem likely that yoga practice might be an ideal treatment for improving the quality of life and lessening symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness in Motion for People with Multiple Sclerosis: A Feasibility Study.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5649345/, Gilbertson and Klatt examined the combination of meditation and chair yoga practice which in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. They called this program “Mindfulness in Motion.” In a pilot feasibility study, they recruited patients with multiple sclerosis and provided them with 8 weeks of the “Mindfulness in Motion” program. The program met once a week for one hour and participants were expected to practice at home for 20 minutes every day. Participants were measured before and after the 8 weeks of practice for mindfulness, fatigue, anxiety, depression, behavior control, and positive affect, physical functioning, role limitations due to physical problems, bodily pain, general health perceptions, vitality, social functioning, role limitations due to emotional problems, and mental health.
They found that compared to baseline after completing the “Mindfulness in Motion” program the participants showed significant improvements in physical functioning, role-physical, vitality, mental health, anxiety, depression, and positive affect and cognitive and psychosocial fatigue and mindfulness including observing, acting with awareness, nonjudgment, and nonreactivity. Hence, after the 8-week “Mindfulness in Motion” program the participants showed marked and significant improvements in the psychological symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
It needs to be kept in mind that this study was a pilot feasibility study that did not have an active control condition, so conclusions must be made carefully. But, this is an extremely encouraging first step that suggests that the combination of two practices which individually produce symptom relief, meditation and chair yoga practice, is a particularly effective treatment for the psychological symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
So, improve multiple sclerosis with meditation and yoga.
“Studies in multiple sclerosis, these have shown that mindfulness can improve quality of life and help people cope better with their MS. The studies also found that it decreased stress, anxiety and depression.” – MS Trust
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Rachel M. Gilbertson, Maryanna D. Klatt. Mindfulness in Motion for People with Multiple Sclerosis: A Feasibility Study. Int J MS Care. 2017 Sep-Oct; 19(5): 225–231. doi: 10.7224/1537-2073.2015-095
Mindfulness in Motion is an 8-week mindfulness-based intervention that uses yoga movement, mindfulness meditation, and relaxing music. This study examined the feasibility of using Mindfulness in Motion in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and the effect of this program on stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and quality of life in people with MS.
Twenty-two people with MS completed the 8-week mindfulness program as well as assessments 1 week before and after the intervention.
Pre/post comparison of four self-reported questionnaires—the Mental Health Inventory, 36-item Short Form Health Status Survey, Modified Fatigue Impact Scale, and Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire—showed significant improvement in physical functioning, vitality, and mental health. Specifically, improvements were seen in anxiety, depression, and positive affect; cognitive, psychosocial, and overall functioning regarding fatigue; and mindfulness in the areas of observing, acting with awareness, nonjudgment, and nonreactivity.
Due to the uncertainty in disease progression associated with MS, and the multiplicity of mental and physical symptoms associated with it, programming that addresses anxiety, depression, and fatigue is a key area of future research in MS disease management. Mindfulness in Motion proved to be a feasible program yielding positive results, supporting the need for research to determine the extent to which the program can improve quality-of-life outcomes for people with MS.