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Orkney has the world’s highest MS rate – and now patients are turning to ballet for help

New dance classes will help the 1-in-170 women in Orkney living with multiple sclerosis (MS).
New dance classes will help the 1-in-170 women in Orkney living with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Orkney has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis (MS) in the entire world – now islanders will dance to improve their health.

One in 170 Orcadian women are living with the condition, which can cause mobility problems, pain, brain fog and fatigue.

There’s no cure, but studies have suggested dance classes can ease the symptoms, improving balance, co-ordination, lower limb strength and cognitive performance.

Now, this theory is being put to the test in Orkney.

Three women laughing as they do ballet
Scottish Ballet’s Elevate class. Picture by Andy Ross

SB Elevate Orkney is being launched today by Scottish Ballet Health, in conjunction with two local groups and the Royal Conservatoire Scotland.

It’s one of the first projects of its kind in the UK and has been tailored to meet various different mobility needs including, for those who use wheelchairs.

‘Most people know someone affected by MS’

George Hannah from the MS Society Orkney said many people will feel the benefits – physically and mentally.

He said: “We are delighted to be involved in this project, as most people in Orkney know someone who is affected by MS.

“We all know the importance of exercise and keeping moving and this will help folks do that.

“Also, we can’t underestimate the importance of the social aspect, as people get the chance to get back together again.”

Three women taking part in an SB Elevate class, which will soon be coming to Orkney.
Three women taking part in an SB Elevate class, which will soon be coming to Orkney.

Tiffany Stott, Scottish Ballet’s dance health programme manager, said stressed it was particularly important to bring the project to Orkney.

“We realised that the situation in Orkney was unique, and we will work closely with the community, local partners, and a researcher to help us understand the needs,” she said.

“We are really excited about the project and the difference it could make to the lives of people living with MS in Orkney.”

The taster session will be held on Monday April 25 at the Pickaquoy Centre, Kirkwall.

More information can be found on the Scottish Ballet website.

Read more:

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What is multiple sclerosis (MS)? Everything you need to know.

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