Rural folk with MS sought for study

A study is under way for people who have MS and live in rural areas. The study looks at how people could feel more confident and engage more regularly in long-term physical activity. Photo: Supplied
A study is under way for people who have MS and live in rural areas. The study looks at how people could feel more confident and engage more regularly in long-term physical activity. Photo: Supplied
Medical researchers are turning their attention to the rural sector to benefit people who have multiple sclerosis.

People living in rural South Canterbury, Otago and Southland who have the auto-immune condition multiple sclerosis (MS) are needed for the University of Otago School of Physiotherapy study.

The 24-week study combines two interventions for people with MS living in rural areas - web-based physio and Blue Prescription.

It promotes physical activity and supports participants through their exercise regime.

Study leader Dr Catherine Smith said the aim was to see if the two interventions complemented each other and whether it was feasible and acceptable to deliver both online.

The study would be delivered via a web-based programme that also allowed participants and physiotherapists to communicate remotely using a chat-room style concept.

A physiotherapist would also visit each participant twice during the study and provide regular support online, over the phone or via text.

Physiotherapists would create a programme for each participant that best suited their needs, using a range of exercises.

''On the website there's about 300 exercises with instructions and videos,'' Dr Smith said.

''Physiotherapists can tailor the programme specifically to each person and then the person can access that programme, and can follow that programme, and can also keep a diary.''

Any issues noted in the diary would be addressed by the physiotherapist to help the participant overcome any problems they might be having.

''They can talk together on that [internet-based] programme and work things out and tweak things a little bit so it works well for that patient.''

The first part of the study would take 12 weeks, with the aim of building up the participant's confidence to exercise.

The second part of the study was the Blue Prescription, a physiotherapist-led intervention to help participants start and maintain new physical activities.

Dr Smith said similar studies had been completed before, mainly for people in urban areas.

''But what we've found is that is not targeting the people that need it most,'' she said, of those who lived more remotely.

Twenty people were wanted for the study, some of whom had already signed up.

''Distance is no barrier within that Southland, Otago, Central Otago and South Canterbury area,'' Dr Smith said.

To take part in the study or for more information, contact the School of Physiotherapy at clinicalresearch.physio@otago.ac.nz or phone 0800-687-489.

-By Alexia Johnston

Add a Comment