A study published in the July 11, 2012, online issue of Neurology shows that taking part in a stress management program may help people with multiple sclerosis (MS) prevent new disease activity.
The study involved 121 people with MS. Half of the study participants took part in the stress management program, which included meeting with a therapist for 16 individual 50-minute sessions as well as strategies for managing stress, such as relaxation techniques and increasing positive activities. They could also choose optional sessions on specific topics such as fatigue management and anxiety reduction. Study results found that 77 percent of those receiving the training were free of new lesions during the treatment period, compared to 55 percent of those in the control group.
However, the positive effects of the training did not continue after the treatment period. This could mean that people were not able to maintain the stress management strategies on their own or that some aspect of the treatment, such as the social support, was the most beneficial part of the treatment.
The study author David C. Mohr, PhD, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, cautions “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.”
Even though we don’t have conclusive evidence that stress causes MS lesions, chronic stress is a significant health hazard and learning how to manage it is a healthcare must, says Pat Daily, LCSW, Director of Counseling and Support Services at the Rocky Mountain MS Center.
“We do know that chronic stress causes lots of other problems, and for that reason alone, it deserves some attention from us. We can’t avoid stress, and even if we could, we wouldn’t want to. If everything were predictable, things would be quite dull. The point isn’t to avoid stress—it’s to learn to manage it,” she adds.
Originally published in eMS News 7/13/2012