Background and purpose: Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) tend to have movement difficulties, and the effect of physiotherapy for this group of patients has been subjected to limited systematic research. In the present study physiotherapy based on the Bobath concept, applied to MS patients with balance and gait problems, was evaluated. The ability of different functional tests to demonstrate change was evaluated.
Method: A single-subject experimental study design with ABAA phases was used, and two patients with relapsing-remitting MS in stable phase were treated. Tests were performed 12 times, three at each phase: A (at baseline); B (during treatment); A (immediately after treatment); and A (after two months). The key feature of treatment was facilitation of postural activity and selective control of movement. Several performance and self report measures and interviews were used.
Results: After intervention, improved balance was shown by the Berg Balance Scale (BBS) in both patients, and improved quality of gait was indicated by the Rivermead Visual Gait Assessment (RVGA). The patients also reported improved balance and gait function in the interviews and scored their condition as 'much improved'. Gait parameters, recorded by an electronic walkway, changed, but differently in the two patients. Among the physical performance tests the BBS and the RVGA demonstrated the highest change, while no or minimal change was demonstrated by the Rivermead Mobility Index (RMI) and Ratings of Perceived Exertion (RPE).
Conclusion: The findings indicate that balance and gait can be improved after physiotherapy based on the Bobath concept, but this should be further evaluated in larger controlled trials of patients with MS.