Laboratory of Human Motion Analysis, Faculty of Physical Education, University of Brasilia, Brazil
Effect of Hippotherapy on Walking Performance and Gait Parameters in People With Multiple Sclerosis
Background: Walking dysfunction is one of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Objective: To evaluate the effects of an 8-week hippotherapy intervention on walking performance and spatiotemporal gait parameters in people with relapsing-remitting MS; and to examine whether the effects of hippotherapy on walking performance are mediated by changes in spatiotemporal gait parameters.
Methods: Participants were assigned into a hippotherapy intervention group (n = 17) or a control group (n = 16). The intervention included 16 sessions of 30-minutes of hippotherapy conducted twice a week. Participants underwent the 25-foot walk test (T25FW) and 6-minute walk test (6MWT), as primary outcomes, and spatiotemporal gait evaluation using GaitRite system, as secondary outcomes, before and after intervention. The data were examined using mixed model ANOVA with Bonferroni post hoc. Mediation analysis was conducted as per Baron and Kenny's criteria.
Results: Compared with control, the intervention group significantly increased 6MWT distance (+9.70%, p<0.001) and decreased T25FW time (-15.86%, p<0.001).Regarding spatiotemporal gait parameters, the intervention group exhibited significantly greater improvements in most variables (Δ% from 3.66 and 41.43%; all p<0.005) than control. Only balance time (p = 0.043), stance time (p = 0.031), and absolute (p = 0.004) and relative (p = 0.017) double support time were identified as significant mediators of the effects of hippotherapy on walking performance evaluated by T25FW. There was no significant mediator for 6MWT (all p>0.05).
Conclusion: Hippotherapy improved walking performance and spatiotemporal gait parameters in people with relapsing-remitting MS, and changes in walking performance, evaluated by T25FW, were partially driven by reduction in stance time and double support time and increase in balance time. Hippotherapy may be a useful complimentary treatment approach for improving walking in people with MS.