A new study has shown that the exercise component of the popular Nintendo Wii video game system is giving Multiple Sclerosis patients improved balance, once again showing the power of the brain and its ability to rewire itself. While no medication exists today to preserve balance in MS patients and some medications even make balance worse. This study gives new hope to patients who once relied on drug therapies for treatment of MS but had no relief for balance problems, one of the most common symptoms of the disease.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information both within the brain and between the brain and the body. The disease is unpredictable and often disabling. The cause is unknown but widely believed to be caused by environmental factors in a person with a genetic predisposition to respond to those factors.
In the United States today, over 400,000 people have multiple sclerosis. Most commonly occurring between the ages of 30 and 37, MS effects more men than women. However, MS is typically caught within the first stage of the disease, in fact nearly 85% of MS patients are diagnosed in the first stage.
The symptoms of MS vary widely and no two patients are alike. Some of the more common symptoms include:
- Numbness or tingling
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Walking difficulties
- Vision problems
- Emotional Changes and depression
Less common symptoms include:
- Speech problems
- Hearing Loss
Once a diagnosis is made, treatment is crucial and ongoing. Finding ways to manage the symptoms of the disease are crucial and many patients find that alternative therapies including acupuncture, vitamin therapies and chiropractic care are helping their quality of life immensely where drug therapies have failed. Chiropractic neurology specifically targets the brain’s connection to the central nervous system and utilizes the brain’s plasticity to help heal the body and restore it to an optimal state of well being. Studies such as the Nintendo Wii study are exciting developments in the proof that the brain is instrumental in the care of patients with diseases such as MS.
In the study, Dr Luca Prosperini, a neurologist at Sapienza University in Rome, Italy, was inspired to study the video game system when he saw patients in rehab using a balance-boosting system that reminded him of an old Atari video game. Later, when he saw a commercial for the Wii Balance Board he began his research. The Balance Board detects a persons movements and translates them into action on the the screen. MS patients use a variety of strategies to support balance from canes and show inserts to rehang and electrical muscle stimulation.
After his initial research that the patients did indeed regain balance after using the Balance Board, he focused a new study on what is happening in the brain during this type of exercise therapy. In the new study, published online Aug. 26 in Radiology, 27 MS patients were split into two groups. One group played with the Wii Balance Board for 30 to 40 minutes daily, five days a week, while the other group did nothing. Next he reversed the roles of the two groups. Another 15 healthy people tried the system, too. All participants had specialized MRI scans to detect any physiological changes in the brain.
The researchers found that patients regained some balance, presumably by using the board, and their brains actually changed. Using the video game was tied to improvements in the protective sheath around nerves, leading to better conduction of impulses between the body and brain, Prosperini said.
While studies are ongoing, there is increasing evidence that there is clinical benefit to these types of video game balance board exercises, and as with any exercise, it is important to know that the improvements are not permanent so that patients must keep at it to maintain the improvements. One thing is certain and that is that patients are getting better and that is giving hope to many people today.
If you or a loved one is suffering from MS and would like to know more about how Chiropractic Neurology can help you, please contact Dr Marc Ellis and his team at the Georgia Chiropractic Neurology Center today. For a complete list of symptoms and more information from the National MS Society, please click here.