Pilates with relaxation improves MS symptoms

A study from Iran has found that mixing Pilates exercises with relaxation techniques helped people with multiple sclerosis (MS) walk better and feel more in tune with themselves.

MS often begins with trouble walking due to the immune system damaging the brain and spinal cord.

Pilates is easy on the body and mind. It involves doing careful movements and breathing techniques to make muscles stronger and balance better. Studies say it could even help people with MS improve their gait.

Relaxation exercises can also help you think about your own thoughts (called metacognition), which can improve physical performance. In this study, scientists wanted to see what happens when you mix relaxation tricks with Pilates suspension training (PST). PST uses ropes and equipment to make you work against your own weight.

The study’s participants were 22 women with MS with an average age of 44. These were put into three groups. Two groups tried PST with different relaxation tricks, and one group didn’t do anything (the control group).

The scientists, guided by Pilates experts, did exercises using a special setup called CoreAlign. The exercises aimed to make the core (middle) part of the body strong while stretching and moving leg muscles.

Three exercises were applied — Good Morning, Turtle, and Hoof, all designed to improve core stability with lower body muscle stretching and mobility.

Benson’s relaxation is a mental self-awareness technique whereby participants sit comfortably, close their eyes, relax all their muscles, inhale through the nose, and exhale through the mouth. The patients in this group were asked to repeat “I am” while ignoring disturbing thoughts and staying in the moment. The other technique was Jacobson’s muscle relaxation where participants tensed and loosened muscles while focusing on breathing.

People did the exercises and relaxation at home. They did three 60-minute sessions each week for seven weeks. The scientists checked how well they walked using the Dynamic Gait Index (DGI) and how aware they were of themselves using the Metacognition Questionnaire-30 (MCQ-30).

People who did PST and Benson’s relaxation got better at walking (DGI scores went from 9.42 to 14.57) and being aware of themselves (MCQ-30 scores went from 71.42 to 80.28). Those who did PST and Jacobson’s relaxation also got better at walking (DGI scores went from 10.37 to 15.12) and self-awareness (MCQ-30 scores went from 76.75 to 81.25).

Both groups that did relaxation and PST did much better than the group that didn’t do anything. The control group’s walking and self-awareness scores didn’t change much (DGI went from 10.42 to 10.14, and MCQ-30 went from 73.71 to 73.14).

“This treatment can top the list of treatment protocols for [people with MS] to prevent relapse and improve characteristics and treatments,” the researchers said. “It is hoped that this study can be expanded in future research, by including male participants and also by using alternative approaches to measure the effect of Pilates intervention such as objective measures for evaluation of balance performance.”