Lack of balance and falls are common and disabling symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of a novel visuo-proprioceptive feedback training in ameliorating balance and reducing the risk of falls. Patients with multiple sclerosis with unrestricted walking ability and healthy age/sex-matched controls were recruited. After a baseline clinical evaluation, including a postural assessment in double- (stabilometric test) and single-leg stance (monopodalic test) by a computerized postural recorder device, patients were submitted to a run-in period lasting 6 weeks without any rehabilitative intervention. Two further clinical and postural evaluations before and after a 6-week period of training were performed. The training protocol provided static and dynamic exercises both in double- and single-leg stance, with and without a translating Freeman-like board. Visual feedback was shown on the computer screen during the exercises. We recruited 40 consecutive patients and 12 controls. Patients had significantly poorer postural performances than controls. Twenty-eight patients completed the study follow-up. No significant changes in risk of falls emerged after the run-in period. A significant reduction in the median percentage of risk of falls in single-leg stance (open eyes: 39.3 versus 15.7; closed eyes: 67.3 versus 52.6; p < 0.001, respectively) were observed after rehabilitation. Moreover, an improvement in walking speed (median time: 7.4 s versus 6.3; p = 0.001) was detected in the absence of Expanded Disability Status Scale changes.
This study concludes that visuo-proprioceptive training improves balance and reduces falls in multiple sclerosis.