Therapeutic exercise for people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or motor neuron disease

Dal Bello-Haas V, Florence JM
Published Online:
May 31, 2013

- See more at: http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD005229/therapeutic-exercise-for-people-with-amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis-or-motor-neuron-disease#sthash.ZAITHFVB.dpuf
Muscle weakness is very common in people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is also known as motor neuron disease (MND). A weak muscle can be damaged if overworked because it is already functioning close to its maximal limits. Because of this, some experts have discouraged exercise programs for people with ALS. However, if a person with ALS is not active, deconditioning (loss of muscle performance) and weakness from lack of use occurs, on top of the deconditioning and weakness caused by the disease itself. If the reduced level of activity persists, many organ systems can be affected and a person with ALS can develop further deconditioning and muscle weakness, and muscle and joint tightness may occur leading to contractures (abnormal distortion and shortening of muscles) and pain. These all make daily activities harder to do. This review found only two randomised studies of exercise in people with ALS. The trials compared an exercise program with usual care (stretching exercises). Combining the results from the two trials (43 participants), exercise produced a greater average improvement in function (measured using an ALS-specific measurement scale) than usual care. There were no other differences between the two groups. There were no reported adverse events due to exercise. The studies were too small to determine to what extent exercise for people with ALS is beneficial or whether exercise is harmful. We found no new trials when we updated the searches in 2012. More research is needed.
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