Decreases in mobility, quality of life (QOL) and cognition are commonly seen in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). Physical therapy (PT) and exercise have been shown to improve many symptoms in ambulatory individuals with MS, however, evidence in nonambulatory people with MS is lacking. Dalfampridine is a US Food and Drug Administration-approved medication for MS that treats impaired ambulation by enhancing nerve conduction. To our knowledge, no study has examined the combined effect of PT and dalfampridine and very few studies have examined dalfampridine's effect on function in individuals with more progressive disease. The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of PT combined with dalfampridine or a placebo on function, QOL, and cognition in nonambulatory individuals with MS. In addition, we explored the benefits of PT in all participants to increase the extremely limited research in this population.
Adults with MS were randomly assigned to receive dalfampridine (n = 13) or placebo (n = 14) for 12 weeks in conjunction with PT treatment 2 times a week. Function, QOL, and cognition were assessed at baseline, 6 weeks, and 12 weeks.
There was a significant time × group interaction for the Multiple Sclerosis Quality of Life-54 favoring the placebo group. Both groups significantly improved on the 9-Hole Peg Test (left arm only), sitting lateral reach (right), transferring from wheelchair to mat, and repeated sit to stand.
The addition of dalfampridine to physical therapy did not improve function, QOL, or cognitive processing speed. Importantly, this study demonstrated an overall benefit in function and QOL with physical therapy 2 times a week for 12 weeks for nonambulatory individuals with MS.