Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide range of potential symptoms, including problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance.
In MS, it’s only the nerves in the brain and/or spine that are damaged. However because these nerves control the functions of the whole body, MS can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Most people will usually experience only a small number around the time of diagnosis and you may never experience all the possible symptoms of MS.
Symptoms vary from person to person and from day to day. This can make your MS rather unpredictable. It’s completely normal for it to take some time to adjust and adapt to this unpredictability going forward in your life.
Some of the most common symptoms around the time of diagnosis are fatigue (a kind of exhaustion which is out of all proportion to the task undertaken), unusual feelings in your skin (such as pins and needles, numbness or burning), problems with eyesight, memory and thinking problems, and walking difficulties (such as tripping, stumbling, weakness or a heavy feeling in your legs).
Exactly what causes MS is unclear. Most experts think a combination of genetic and environmental factors is involved.
MS is an inflammatory disease of the Central Nervous System (CNS) and there are estimated to be about 100,000 people with MS in the UK. The nerve fibres of the CNS are protected by a fatty tissue known as myelin. A Person with MS has areas of damage (lesions) where myelin is lost or damaged (demyelination) which in turn causes nerve cells to become exposed or damaged. People with MS may lose myelin in various areas leaving scar tissue called sclerosis giving the condition its name, Multiple Sclerosis.
Whether you have had a formal diagnosis of MS or not, your Physiotherapist at Pure will ask for a detailed history or your symptoms and perform a physical assessment to get an understanding of your physical capabilities and to help you establish clear goals to work towards. If you are presenting with signs that may be indicative of MS, your Physio will discuss having investigations performed to assist with diagnosis. Having an accurate and timely diagnosis ensures that your are given the best possible treatment for optimal outcomes to be achieved.
Your Physiotherapist will provide you with education on MS so that you can make sense of your symptoms and to gain an understanding of what you can do to help manage your symptoms. You will be given suggestions on how you can alter the way you perform your daily activities and we make sure that your personal goals are placed at the forefront of your treatment.
Your Physio at Pure will encourage you to remain active as this can be very beneficial in keeping you functional and healthy. When performing exercise, take it slow. Always warm up first. Ease into your routine. If all you can manage is a walk around the block — or across the room — that’s fine. Start with that and keep it up. In time, you’ll build up your strength and be able to do much more.
Stay safe. Avoid places with slippery floors, poor lighting, throw rugs, or other tripping hazards. Choose activities that won’t make it likely for you to fall, like stationary biking or swimming. You may want to have a grab bar or rail nearby.
The MS Trust has a useful free guide to self-management on their web site. This covers matters such as coping with the news you have MS, relapses, exercise and diet. Please find a link to the site at the bottom of this page.
Physiotherapy can help with physical independence, flexibility, strength and fitness. It can also improve your chances of staying in employment and reduce the effect MS can have on your general health and quality of life. Your Physiotherapist will design a personalised exercise plan based on your goals and will make adjustments based on how well you progress. Regular re-assessment ensures you are working towards the goals you make.
Stretches are useful for anyone with MS, but they’re most helpful if you have painful muscle stiffness and spasms. Aside from regular stretches, yoga and tai chi are great ways to build strength and flexibility. They can also help you relax and fight stress. Your Physiotherapist will recommend specific stretches based on which body regions are most affected.
Strength training forms a pivotal part of your rehabilitation. Using weights or resistance exercises to build your muscles can help you maintain your function and independence. The stronger you are, the easier it’ll be to move around. As you develop strength, your Physio may modify your exercises to challenge you and will provide ongoing support so that you can continue to manage your symptoms well.