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Thinking About Emotional Wellness

Blog Summary

Last week, I attended the American Academy of Neurology meeting in Los Angeles. There were several studies presented on aspects of emotional health, and it got me thinking about how important it is to remember that our emotional health can affect many aspects of living with MS.

Research has shown that anxiety and depression can occur as MS symptoms, not just as reactions to having the disease. One poster presentation I saw was by Canadian researchers, who generally do a pretty good job tracking people with MS because of their unified health systems and electronic records. They reported that anxiety (and diabetes) could have a negative impact on a person’s cognition. The researchers commented that it’s possible that treating diabetes or anxiety could improve cognitive problems for people with MS.

Wellness Research Shapes Up at MSPARIS2017

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MSPARIS2017 is a remarkable event—it’s a spectacular gathering of thousands of professionals who are dedicated to the treatment and research of MS. I am especially encouraged by the growing number and diversity of presentations on an important topic: wellness strategies. I saw a poster on the benefits of home stretching for leg spasticity (tightness). Surprisingly, there had not been many previous studies that showed benefits of stretching for spasticity in MS, or any other condition. However, many physical therapists teach stretching to treat spasticity. A study from the VA in Portland showed for the first time that one month of stretching effectively decreased the impact of spasticity on daily symptoms and activities. I was happy to see this first study showing the benefit of stretching and that a larger, follow-up study is planned. Details of the study are published and available for everyone (Abstract 899).

Habits – Friends and Foes

Blog Summary

I was lucky to attend this year’s annual meeting of the Consortium of MS Centers, held in late May in New Orleans. There were a lot of interesting talks, and you can read about highlights here, browse slide presentations here and summaries (abstracts) here.   One presentation that really hit home for me was a talk about habits by Gabe Byars, an occupational therapist from the Salt Lake Community College in Utah. Habits are behaviors we do without having to think too much about them -- like walking into the house and always putting our keys in the same spot. Gabe said that habits make up about 43 percent of our daily actions. That sounds like a lot of time -- maybe that is where the saying “we are creatures of habit” comes from...

New Rehab Techniques in Motion at the AAN Meeting

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I recently joined the MS Society’s research team and in this new role, I am really excited to attend my first annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in Boston. I am a scientist in the field of neuroscience and rehabilitation, and while this meeting has not traditionally focused on rehabilitation, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number of studies being presented that explore rehabilitation approaches and symptom management. This research area speaks to questions around how to improve a person’s wellbeing and quality of life, and it’s very close to my heart.   Here are just a few studies that caught my eye...