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Rehabilitation and multiple sclerosis: hot topics in the preservation of physical functioning

  • Ulrik Dalgas
    Correspondence
    Correspondence: U Dalgas, Department of Sport Science, Aarhus University, Dalgas Avenue 4, 8000 Aarhus, Denmark. Tel.: +45 40 12 30 39
    Affiliations
    Department of Sport Science, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark
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      Summary

      In a chronic and disabling disease like multiple sclerosis, rehabilitation becomes of major importance in the preservation of physical, psychological and social functioning. Approximately 80% of patients have multiple sclerosis for more than 35 years and most will develop disability at some point of their lives, emphasising the importance of rehabilitation in order to maintain quality of life. An important aspect of multiple sclerosis rehabilitation is the preservation of physical functioning. Hot topics in the rehabilitation of physical function include (1) exercise therapy, (2) robot-assisted training and (3) pharmacological interventions. Exercise therapy has for many years been a controversial issue in multiple sclerosis rehabilitation and the advice generally given to patients was not to participate in physical exercise, since it was thought to lead to a worsening of symptoms or fatigue. However, a paradigm shift is taking place and it is now increasingly acknowledged that exercise therapy is both safe and beneficial. Robot-assisted training is also attracting attention in multiple sclerosis rehabilitation. Several sophisticated commercial robots exist, but so far the number of scientific studies that have evaluated these is limited, although some promising results have been reported. Finally, recent studies have shown that certain pharmacological interventions have the potential to improve functional capacity substantially, with the potassium channel blocker fampridine being one of the most promising. This drug has been shown to improve walking ability in some patients with multiple sclerosis, associated with a reduction of patients' self-reported ambulatory disability. Rehabilitation strategies involving these different approaches, or combinations of them, may be of great use in improving everyday functioning and quality of life in patients with MS.

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