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Groundbreaking physiotherapy treatment for MS

15 January 2015

A Multiple Sclerosis physiotherapy programme based at the Bristol County Ground could be rolled out across Europe after achieving ground-breaking results.

The fitness sessions at the BS7 Gym have helped people with the condition regain balance and movement skills and provided them with a forum to share their experiences.

The findings from the BrAMS (Bristol and Avon Multiple Sclerosis) scheme - which has been developed by North Bristol NHS Trust physiotherapist Tania Burge and BS7 personal trainer Nathan Walsh - gained recognition when presented at an MS conference in Norway and to the UK's National Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and has now received interest from Italy, Spain and Germany.

Tania said: "I am very proud to be acknowledged as part of a dynamic team enabling people with MS to live life to the full.

"A lot of other countries are running more hospital-based programmes but for people with a long-term condition like MS, going to the BS7 gym at the Bristol County Ground is a much nicer experience than going to a hospital for treatment and we are making massive differences."

The programme is a partnership between Gloucestershire Cricket and BrAMS, which is based at Southmead Hospital Bristol.

The initial scheme is a six-week course and is the first of its type in Bristol for high ability people with MS. Through taking part in a mixture of games, balance and mobility exercises, some participants who were off sick have been able to return to work. Others have been able to do everyday tasks that had been beyond them and one person has begun training for a half marathon. Everyone who has attended has reported a huge boost in confidence.

The sessions have proved so successful that Nathan has set-up an additional session per week for people who have completed the initial six week course.

He said: "We have seen real improvements in things like balance and walking but also a big change in people's confidence. Instead of worrying about what they can't do, they have focused on what they can do and I think they have surprised themselves at how quickly they have seen improvements."

One of the people to benefit from the programme is 30-year-old Jen Satterley from St Werburghs.

She said: "When I started coming here there were everyday things that I wouldn't do like standing on a chair to get something out of a cupboard. The sessions have made a huge difference and I wouldn't think twice about doing things like that now."

As well as improving participants' physical skills the sessions have also developed self-esteem and created a social network of people who are all in a similar situation.

Jen said: "I felt too young to be disabled. I was completely fine a year ago and it really hit me that my friends were doing things that I couldn't do. It even felt weird being out in public because people who didn't know me would look over and think I was drunk in the middle of the day but it was my balance.

"When I started coming here I started getting back my ability to do things and it made me start to feel normal again. The social aspect is also a massive help - just as much as the physical. It means you don't feel completely alone."

The results of the BrAMS scheme were presented by Tania to delegates from nine other European countries at the event in Norway.

Following this a senior lecturer from Plymouth University used the outcomes from the scheme in a talk to more than two thousand people at the National Chartered Society of Physiotherapy on the delivery of MS services to patients in the UK.

Tania hopes that as a result of this exposure other countries may adopt the scheme. She is also hoping to do a masters degree in order to formally publish the research.

In addition to supporting the scheme through the use of BS7, Gloucestershire Cricket raised awareness for the programme by making their LV= County Championship match v Essex a 'Batting for BrAMS' MS Awareness match. This involved fans being encouraged to wear something red and donate to the charity.

Gloucestershire Cricket's head of community engagement Roz Hutchings said: "Through our work in the community Gloucestershire Cricket aims to improve lives and create opportunities and that is encapsulated in the BrAMS programme.

"We are not just here for people who love cricket. We want to be able to use our facilities and the expertise we have on site to make a real difference to the whole community.

"We are delighted that the BrAMS programme is gaining wider recognition and would like to congratulate Tania and Nathan for all their hard work."

BrAMS is a Southmead Hospital Charity appeal. For more information about BrAMS or to support Southmead Hospital Charity please contact the charity office on 0117 4143883.

Groundbreaking physiotherapy treatment for MS
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