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Effect of a Tai Chi Chuan Slow Walking Intervention on Balance and Mobility in Individuals with Multiple Sclerosis

In people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) balance impairments may lead to increased falls and mobility loss. In quiet stance, people with MS display greater postural sway than healthy controls. Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art that has decreased the risk of falling in frail elderly individuals (Wolf et al., 1996). The purpose of this study was to determine if a three week Tai Chi intervention would improve postural stability in people with MS. Seven participants (6F/1M, age 48.5 ± 10.8 years, height 1.66 ± 0.08m, mass 68.6 ± 19.8kg) attended nine one hour training sessions to practice two types of Tai Chi: standing meditation and slow walking. Postural stability was assessed before and after training using average center of pressure (CoP) velocity, total excursion and time to contact (TtC) for the static trials, and dual and single limb support times for the walking trials. To measure postural stability trials of quiet stance (QS), Tai Chi standing meditation with (SMA) and without arms (SM), tandem stance (TS), preferred speed walking (PW) and slow speed walking (SW) were assessed. Kinematic data recorded by a 12 camera motion capture system (Qualysis AB), and kinetic data collected from a single forceplate (AMTI) were used to compute net CoP. Because functional parameters can influence stability, strength obtained from a chair rise test and neural drive obtained from a foot tapping test were obtained. All results were assessed with paired t-tests (p.05). For SMA, average CoP velocity (p=.006) and excursions (p=.023) increased, and average TtC (p=.020) was reduced. For TS average CoP velocity (p=.06) and excursions (p=.09) trended towards decreased values, and average TtC (p=.045) increased. With the exception of increased left single limb support time (p=.009) PW and SW were not affected by the intervention. In conclusion, the increased neural drive, muscular strength, and postural stability in TS supports the idea that a three week Tai Chi intervention is effective at improving static balance in people with MS.
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