Dartmouth-Hitchcock researcher explores how Yoga benefits MS patients

Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 6:52 PM EDT
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LEBANON, N.H (WCAX) - A new study from Dartmouth Health shows promising results for people suffering from multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord. The study, done in partnership with the LoveYourBrain Foundation, focuses on the benefits of yoga.

In 2009, professional snowboarder Kevin Pearce sustained a life-threatening traumatic brain injury. Pearce turned to yoga to help with his recovery, and from that, the Love Your Brain Foundation was formed.

Four years after his accident, decided with his brother to found LoveYourBrain, to build community for people impacted by TBI, and offer programs to support people to increase resilience,” said Kyla Pearce, Kevin’s sister-in-law and a staff member at the foundation.

Over the years, the foundation’s yoga programs have helped roughly 20,000 people in the United States and Canada through their recovery. A study was published highlighting its impacts. “What we found was that people who participated, significantly improved really important health outcomes like positive affect, their cognition, quality of life, resilience,” Pearce said.

That caught the attention of Dr. Andrew Smith, a neurologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center who specializes in multiple sclerosis. “We have relatively limited data to tell patients how they can change their lifestyle that may have an impact on their symptoms of the disease,” Smith said.

Smith proposed another study to explore whether LoveYourBrain yoga could help MS patients as well. Fifteen people from Vermont and New Hampshire took part. “We actually did find significant outcomes in improvement in fatigue, anxiety,” Smith said.

It turned out that the treatment spawned from the life-altering brain injury of the Olympic-bound snowboarder showed benefits for battling the symptoms of a neurological disease. “So, to see that LoveYourBrain Yoga improves fatigue, which has massive implications on just day-to-day living, was really meaningful and rewarding to learn,” Pearce said.

The study, “A crossover pilot trial of the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of LoveYourBrain Yoga for community-dwelling adults with multiple sclerosis” was published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice.

But doctors still don’t know exactly how or why yoga seems to work. “We don’t completely understand the cause of fatigue in patients with MS, so I think it is also very challenging to understand why are some of these interventions helpful,” Smith said.

It’s something Smith says could possibly be explored in a larger study in partnership with Love Your Brain yoga instructors across the country.

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