MOVING FORWARD WITH MS: Mobility Issues & Answers
Whether you were recently diagnosed with MS and experience no mobility issues; received your MS diagnosis as a result of an incidence of limb weakness; or have experienced increasing difficulty with movement as your MS progresses, mobility issues may come with the territory when it comes to MS.
A neurodegenerative disease, MS affects the central nervous system and often results in a loss of balance and muscle control. Loss of mobility can affect not only physical health but mental health as well, including your mood, the ability to work, and to complete daily tasks. MS can greatly increase fatigue, which in turn can affect mobility and balance. Muscle spasms and tightness (which make insomnia a common problem) can be disruptive and painful.
The symptoms of MS may threaten to slow you down, but there are many ways to manage mobility issues caused by the disease. Exercises, particularly those that build leg, back, and core strength, have been shown to aid mobility and in some cases slow the progression of mobility symptoms. Remember to always talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen. With the help of options such as assistive devices, adapted motor vehicles, and physical therapy, many MS patients learn to manage and even minimize symptoms affecting their movement.
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LET'S GET PHYSICAL
Physical therapy (PT) may come as a welcome prescription for MS patients. While PT cannot cure MS, it can help ease symptoms such as tremors, tingling, numbness, paralysis, and loss of balance. Physical therapists teach exercises and stretches that can help patients compensate for impairments brought about by MS. Often the exercises, once learned, can be performed at home. Many physical therapists can also perform “functional capacity evaluations,” which provide information for disability claims based on physical performance.
“The overall goal of physical therapy is to improve movement and function, and to relieve pain,” says Dr. Cecilia Graham, associate professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s department of physical therapy. “In turn, this improves patients’ overall quality of life and increases independence.”