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The use of horse-based therapy along with standard care was found to improve several key measures in people with multiple sclerosis when compared to those given standard care alone.
The findings of the German study have been reported in the journal Multiple Sclerosis.
University of Cologne researcher Vanessa Vermöhlen and her colleagues noted that evidence-based complementary treatment options for multiple sclerosis were limited.
The study team set out to explore the effect of hippotherapy plus standard care versus standard care alone in patients with multiple sclerosis, a disease in which the immune system attacks the protective covering of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Seventy adults with the disease were recruited in five German centers and were split into two groups. One group received standard care only − the control group − while the other received 12 weeks of hippotherapy as well as standard care.
Following the 12 weeks, all patients were assessed on the Berg Balance Scale, as well as recognized measures of fatigue, pain, quality of life, and spasticity (muscle contraction) to see whether there was any change from the start.
Hippotherapy plus standard care, while below the threshold of a minimal clinically important difference, significantly improved balance, and also fatigue, spasticity, and quality of life in patients, the authors reported.
The study team comprised Vermöhlen, Petra Schiller, Sabine Schickendantz, Marion Drache, Sabine Hussack, Andreas Gerber-Grote and Dieter Pöhlau. The researchers are with a range of German institutions.
Hippotherapy for patients with multiple sclerosis: A multicenter randomized controlled trial (MS-HIPPO)
Vanessa Vermöhlen, Petra Schiller, Sabine Schickendantz, Marion Drache, Sabine Hussack, Andreas Gerber-Grote, Dieter Pöhlau
The abstract can be read here.