Effects of hippotherapy on balance of persons with multiple sclerosis: a pilot study.

Heather Warmbier, Deborah Silkwood-Sherer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this pilot study was to determine the effectiveness of hippotherapy as an intervention for the treatment of balance disorders observed in individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS). Subjects: Fifteen individuals with MS, recruited from support groups, were assessed for balance deficits using the Berg Balance Scale (BBS), Tinetti Performance Oriented Mobility Assessment (POMA), and the Clinical Test for Sensory Interaction on Balance (CTSIB). Methods: Nine of the individuals received weekly hippotherapy intervention for 14 weeks. The other 6 individuals served as a control group. Each participant was assessed with the BBS and POMA at 0, 7, and 14 weeks. Results: The group receiving hippotherapy showed statistically significant improvement in both the BBS (x2 (2)=8.82, p=0.012) and POMA (x2 (2)=10.38, p=0.006) from pretest to posttest assessments. The control group had no statistical difference in performance on the BBS (x2 (2)=0.40, p=0.819) or POMA (x2 (2)=1.41, p=0.494). A statistically significant difference was also found between the groups’ final BBS scores (treatment group Mdn =55.0, control group Mdn = 41.0), U=7, r = -.49. Discussion: The balance improvements observed by standardized testing suggest that hippotherapy may be an alternative method for providing functional whole-practice retraining of balance in persons with MS. Conclusions: Although improvement was observed following intervention, the small sample size makes it difficult to definitively state that hippotherapy will improve balance in all persons with MS. However, hippotherapy does show promise for the treatment of balance disorders in persons with MS; further research is needed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-84
JournalJournal of Neurologic Physical Therapy
StatePublished - 2007


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