BACKGROUND: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a life-long condition primarily affecting younger adults. Neurogenic bowel dysfunction (NBD) occurs in 50-80% of these patients and is the term used to describe constipation and faecal incontinence, which often co-exist. Data from a pilot study suggested feasibility of using abdominal massage for the relief of constipation, but the effectiveness remains uncertain.
METHODS/DESIGN: This is a multi-centred patient randomised superiority trial comparing an experimental strategy of once daily abdominal massage for 6 weeks against a control strategy of no massage in people with MS who have stated that their constipation is bothersome. The primary outcome is the Neurogenic Bowel Dysfunction Score at 24 weeks. Both groups will receive optimised advice plus the MS Society booklet on bowel management in MS, and will continue to receive usual care. Participants and their clinicians will not be blinded to the allocated intervention. Outcome measures are primarily self-reported and submitted anonymously. Central trial staff who will manage and analyse the trial data will be unaware of participant allocations. Analysis will follow intention-to-treat principles.
DISCUSSION: This pragmatic randomised controlled trial will demonstrate if abdominal massage is an effective, cost-effective and viable addition to the treatment of NBD in people with MS.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov, ISRCTN85007023 . Registered on 10 June 2014.