March is National MS Awareness and Education Month. Approximately 400,000 people in the United States and 2.5 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (CNS). It involves the loss of myelin, a material that covers and protects the nerves. Without myelin, nerves cannot properly communicate with each other. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS cannot be predicted and varies person to person depending on which parts of the CNS are affected. Symptoms include, but not limited to, difficulty walking, vision loss, pain, fatigue, and impaired coordination.
The cause of MS is still unknown. It is believed that a combination of environmental and genetic factors contribute to the risk of developing MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50 and affects women 2-3x more than men. Although there is no cure for the disease, it can be successfully controlled with medical management and rehabilitation.
How can a physical therapist help?
Physical therapists help people with MS regain and maintain strength, flexibility, and general fitness in order to live active, productive lives. When someone receives a diagnosis of MS, the best option is to begin PT right away to help improve any mild challenges, and possibly slow down the progression of the symptoms of the disease.
Your physical therapist will complete a comprehensive examination to determine your impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. Following the examination, your physical therapist will develop a specific exercise program for you based on your condition and goals. Exercises beneficial to someone with MS include strengthening, balance training, stretching, and aerobic training.
Rachel Gorman, PT, DPT
Restore PT & Wellness