Neuromyelitis optica (NMO), similar to multiple sclerosis (MS), is an autoimmune disorder affecting the central nervous system. In people with central nervous system diagnoses, high-intensity gait training (HIGT) can support neuroplasticity, improving functional mobility. While low- to moderate-intensity exercise is beneficial in improving outcomes in individuals with NMO and MS, the impact of HIGT has not been thoroughly explored. This case study explores the safety and efficacy of HIGT in an individual with NMO.
A 43-year-old man with NMO participated in a HIGT program utilizing the least amount of body weight support necessary to achieve a target heart rate of 60% to 80% of heart rate reserve or a Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion score of 15 to 17 during an in-patient rehabilitation stay. Interventions incorporated stair training, gait variances, and virtual reality.
The patient successfully completed a 90-minute training session 4 to 7 times per week for 6 weeks following a HIGT regimen for 40% to 60% of each session. Meaningful gains in bed mobility, transfers, and gait allowed for a discharge to his home.
This case suggests that HIGT in patients with NMO can be safe and effective in improving functional mobility. Due to the similarities between NMO and MS, this case provides a framework to assist clinicians in developing a HIGT plan of care for individuals with MS. Additional research is needed to clarify HIGT parameters, including intensity and duration, to improve functional mobility in individuals with MS.