12 July 2012

Stress Management Program Reduces Multiple Sclerosis Disease Activity

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain, optic nerve, and spinal cord. It primarily targets the CNS (central nervous system).

An autoimmune disease is a type of disease where the body's immune system mistakes a normal tissue or cell for a pathogen and attacks it.

MS is caused when the protective covering surrounding nerve cells called myelin sheaths are damaged. When the myelin sheath is damaged, nerve signals travelling through the nerve cells slow down or just stop.

The researchers found that the age-related impairment of the body's ability to replace protective myelin sheaths, which normally surround nerve fibers and allow them to send signals properly, may be reversible, offering new hope that therapeutic strategies aimed at restoring efficient regeneration can be effective in the central nervous system throughout life.

Stress management training may help reduce disease activity in MS

A new study shows that taking part in a stress management program may help people with multiple sclerosis (MS) prevent new disease activity. The study is published in the July 11, 2012, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study involved 121 people with MS. Half received the stress management program, meeting with a therapist for 16 individual 50-minute sessions over five to six months. They learned about problem-solving skills, relaxation, increasing positive activities, and enhancing their social support. They could also choose optional sessions on topics such as fatigue management, anxiety reduction, pain management and insomnia treatment. After the treatment ended, the participants were followed for another five to six months. The remaining participants were put on a waiting list as a control group. After 10 months, they attended a five-hour workshop on stress management.


A total of 77 percent of those receiving stress management training were free of new lesions, or brain damage that indicates disease activity, during the treatment period, compared to 55 percent of those in the control group.

"The size of the effect is similar to other recent phase II trials of new drug therapies for MS," said study author David C. Mohr, PhD, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. "While it's premature to make any specific recommendations about using this type of stress management training to manage MS disease activity, it will be important to conduct more research to identify specifically how this treatment is benefiting people with MS."

In addition, questionnaires showed that those receiving the training had greater reductions in their stress levels than the control group.

However, the positive effects of the training did not continue after the treatment period. "This was unexpected," Mohr said. "It's possible that people were not able to sustain their new coping skills once the support ended, or that some aspect of the treatment other than stress management skills, such as the social support, was the most beneficial part of the treatment."


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