BACKGROUND: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system that causes ataxia and deficits in balance. Exercise-based therapies have been identified as integral to the recovery of motor function in MS, but few studies have investigated non-traditional movement interventions. We examined a targeted ballet program (TBP) designed to mitigate ataxia and improve balance in females with mild-to-moderate relapsing-remitting MS.
METHODS AND FINDINGS: Twelve females with mild-to-moderate disability due to MS were assessed for study eligibility for the study. Ten participants met the inclusion criteria. Two were lost to unrelated health complications. Eight participants completed the TBP. The TBP met twice a week for 60 minutes for 16 weeks. Assessments included (a) the International Cooperative Ataxia Rating Scale (ICARS), (b) the Mini-Balance Evaluations Systems Test (Mini-BESTest), (c) smoothness of movement during a five-meter walk, and (d) balance in a step to stand task before and after the TBP. There were no TBP-related adverse events. Single-tailed paired samples t-tests and Wilcoxon tests were conducted. Improvements were observed in ICARS (p = 7.11E-05), Mini-BESTest (p = 0.001), smoothness of movement in the left (p = 0.027) and right (p = 0.028) sides of the body, and balance in a step-to-stand task in the back (p = 0.025) direction. Results yielded 42% and 58% improvements in the mean Mini-BESTest and ICARS scores, respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: This study adds to current research by providing support for a TBP intervention targeting ataxia and balance in MS. The TBP was well tolerated, improved balance, and mitigated ataxia. Clinical improvements were larger than those of previous studies on physical rehabilitation in MS with similar outcome measures.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN ISRCTN67916624.