Research has shown that relaxing can help ease the symptoms of multiple sclerosis
Stress management training may help people with multiple sclerosis (MS) to slow disease progression – at least during the treatment period, according to new research published in the journal Neurology. MS affects the nerves of the 100,000 people in the UK who have the condition, twice as many women as men. Symptoms vary widely from person to person, and may come and go – so much so that it is often difficult to diagnose the disease. There is no cure and treatment involves addressing the symptoms.
Researchers asked half of the 121 MS patients taking part in the study to undergo a stress management programme; the other half were put on a waiting list and after 10 months were given a five-hour workshop on stress management. The programme involved meeting a therapist for nearly an hour about three times a month for five or six months. During each meeting the patient could choose to cover specific topics such as how to manage insomnia, pain or fatigue, for example. They also learned skills that might help them cope with the symptoms of MS: problem-solving, relaxation, positive thinking and so on.
During the six months of treatment, 77% of participants were found not to have developed any new lesions and showed no signs of brain damage indicating disease activity; this was compared to 55% of the control group. This result, say the researchers, is similar to that of certain medications. Once the treatment ended, however, the beneficial effects were reduced or disappeared altogether, indicating that whatever caused the reduction in disease activity was related to the activity of treatment; the patients were not able to produce the same effect themselves.