Physical Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a debilitating condition that affects the central nervous system, and disrupts the communication between the brain and other parts of the body. MS is believed to be an autoimmune disease that causes the wearing away of the myelin sheath, the protective covering of the nerves, resulting in a slowing or stoppage of the transmission of nerve impulses. Symptoms of MS may vary depending on the amount of damage and the specific nerves that are affected, but it can can gradually affect vision, speech, movement, walking, and memory. MS commonly affects women more than men and is typically diagnosed in women between the ages of 20 and 40.
There is no cure for MS and treatment is often directed at managing symptoms and preventing complications such as muscle weakness caused by lack of mobility. A physical therapy program focuses on mobility challenges and the accompanying physical changes due to MS. Physical therapy may help some patients manage the effects of the disease through strengthening and stretching exercises. Exercises may also be used to improve balance and posture, relieve pain, and improve mild forms of spasticity. A physical therapy program may include:
- An exercise program
- Gait training
- Training in the use of mobility aids and assistive devices
- Safety training
The physical therapist works with the patient to improve physical stamina and functionality. While a physical therapy program cannot reverse the progression of MS, it can help to ease symptoms, promote safety, and minimize further damage due to abnormal movements caused by the disease.
Since MS can be a debilitating disease, it is important for patients to maintain an active, normal lifestyle and keep themselves as healthy as possible, both physically and emotionally. Eating a healthy diet, exercising and getting plenty of rest may help to relieve some of the symptoms of MS.