Use of Hippotherapy in Treating Balance Deficits in Persons with Multiple Sclerosis

Jessica L Sullivan, Deborah Silkwood-Sherer

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Background and Purpose: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, progressive disease that affects the central nervous system resulting in functional limitations due to balance and gait deficits. This case series provides insight as to whether hippotherapy (HPOT) improves integration of environmental sensory cues as a mechanism for observed balance and gait improvements in prior HPOT research, and whether these improvements lead to improved quality of life in persons with MS? Methods: Participants were 3 females and 2 males ranging in age from 37 to 60 years. Diagnoses included relapse-remitting, secondary-progressive, and progressive/relapsing MS. The participants were placed into 1 of 2 groups: intervention or comparison. Balance and sensory organization was assessed by the Berg Balance Scale (BBS) and Sensory Organization Test (SOT). Gait was assessed using the Functional Gait Assessment (FGA) and general endurance was assessed by a 3-minute walk test (3MWT). Participation in daily activities was measured using the Multiple Sclerosis Quality of Life Measure - 54 (MSQOL-54). Results: Following the 6 week intervention period, the HPOT participants showed improvements in SOT, BBS, and FGA scores. These improvements remained stable or continued to improve after a 6 week washout period. Results of the MSQOL-54 and 3MWT were inconclusive. No changes were observed in the comparison group. Discussion: The results indicate that hippotherapy may be a beneficial physical therapy treatment strategy for persons with MS as improvements were seen in balance, postural stability, and functional gait. Larger randomized clinical trials will be necessary to validate results of this case series, along with determining appropriate dosage of intervention.
Original languageEnglish
StatePublished - Mar 2013
Event2013 American Hippotherapy Association International Meeting - St. Louis, MO
Duration: Mar 1 2013Mar 31 2013


Conference2013 American Hippotherapy Association International Meeting


Dive into the research topics of 'Use of Hippotherapy in Treating Balance Deficits in Persons with Multiple Sclerosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this