Most people have heard about multiple sclerosis (MS), but don’t know much about this autoimmune disease. It’s a debilitating and progressive condition that affects the brain and spinal cord.
Normally, nerves are encased in a thin and protective insulating coating called myelin. Multiple sclerosis causes the immune system to ‘turn on itself’ and eat away at the myelin. In the early stages, MS is difficult to diagnose. Symptoms may come and go over a period of time. Depending upon the extent of damage, patients may experience tingling or pain, electric shock-like sensations, vision issues and slurred speech, along with tremors and lack of coordination. Symptoms range from mild to severe. Patients are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature and fluctuations can trigger symptoms.
The cause of multiple sclerosis isn’t known, but the disease has been linked to a variety of viral infections. MS can strike at any age, but typically appears between the ages of 20 and 40. Multiple sclerosis primarily affects women and is associated with a family history. Severe complications include loss of bladder and bowel control, muscle paralysis, depression and epilepsy.
With any condition involving the nervous system, it is imperative to start working with a physical therapist as soon as possible. Physical therapy techniques to improve quality of life include:
Electrical Stimulation — When a patient is unable to initiate muscle contractions, electrical stimulation provides the means to help keep muscles mobile and toned.
Gait Training — This treatment technique prevents muscle atrophy and conditions patients to walk again. It is effective for individuals experiencing numbness in the extremities and helps improve balance.
Progressive Strengthening — Improving strength and mobility through gentle, flowing motions helps build core and pelvic floor strength. This helps prevent falls due to unsteady gait and muscle weakness.
Individualized Training — A training program is tailored to each individual, and independent home exercise is encouraged. Exercise is appropriate for MS patients at all levels, and a physical therapist can prescribe the correct level of intensity and frequency.
Movement Adaptations — Minor adjustments to the home and work environment can help the patient adapt to fatigue and temperature sensitivity. Assistive technology such as canes, crutches and wheelchairs are used to improve quality of life.
Physical therapy is an essential part of an overall treatment plan for patients with multiple sclerosis. In fact, physical therapy can help most individuals recover from diseases/injuries affecting bones, joints, muscles and nerves. The scope of physical therapy is significant, and we can help most people improve their quality of life.
A physical therapist uses an arsenal of treatment techniques, procedures and modalities to help improve strength, mobility and stability. This is invaluable for patients with MS, as they learn adaptive techniques to mitigate the symptoms of the disease. The end result is less pain and discomfort, more freedom of movement and higher quality of life.
Multiple sclerosis is associated with unique challenges for the patient, both physical and emotional. Physical therapists use a combination of modern treatment techniques, old fashioned encouragement and moral support. Call us today to learn more about how we can help you, and your loved ones enjoy a higher quality of life. Freedom is one phone call away. We look forward to hearing from you.
Dan Skulavik is the physical therapist at Advanced Physical Therapy in the Food Lion Shopping Center.