Managing the Symptoms of MS Through Rehabilitation

Managing the Symptoms of MSMultiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, often disabling autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system. Symptoms can range from mild, such as numbness in the limbs, to severe, such as paralysis or blindness. Fortunately, individuals with MS can lead long, satisfying lives, especially if they participate in exercise and rehabilitation therapy.

As a physical therapist and someone who has lived with the disease for more than 10 years, I can attest to the fact that physical, occupational and speech therapy help patients manage their symptoms and successfully live with MS.

Newly Diagnosed Patients

Usually a neurologist diagnoses MS after eliminating other diseases with similar symptoms. Diagnosis often occurs in early adulthood. Given the pressures of this life stage, depression can accompany the diagnosis.

Exercise helps patients cope with the physical symptoms of MS, and also helps to return a sense of control and improves mood. Individuals with MS can participate in many activities that they enjoyed prior to their diagnosis, but they must learn how to adjust their activities to their functional abilities. For example, overheating can exacerbate the symptoms of MS. Therefore, therapists carefully design regimens that patients can safely pursue. Patients are advised to err on the side of caution during exercise: “no pain, no gain” does not apply.

Typical types of exercise include:

  • Cardiovascular to increase endurance and lessen fatigue
  • Stretching to help develop more flexible muscles and decrease pain
  • Strengthening to increase endurance, decrease weakness and support joints
  • Balance to improve stability and prevent falls

Physical Therapy Can Assist Patients Cope with Relapses

Most MS patients have episodes of worsening neurologic function, known as relapses, flare-ups or exacerbations. Sometimes, the patient completely recovers. Other times, some function is partially or completely lost. Physical therapy can help treat and manage a variety of problems encountered during relapses.

Occupational Therapy

Function loss during a flare-up may impair the ability to perform everyday tasks in the home and the workplace. Good Shepherd occupational therapists offer tools and strategies that enable people with MS to optimize their productivity, safety and independence along with educating them on energy conservation techniques.

Speech Language Pathology

Speech language pathologists (SLPs) also can play several important roles in the course of MS by evaluating and treating problems with speech production and clarity, changes in cognition and swallowing difficulties. SLPs can recommend strategies to help people function effectively and safely.

Living with MS is challenging. Relapses often occur, and new symptoms sometimes develop. While patients cannot control the disease, they can control how they deal with it. The staff at Good Shepherd is here to help. Therapy is available at our main campus in Allentown and at more than 20 outpatient sites. In addition, our MS Wellness Program and support groups offer education and opportunities for people with MS and their family members to share experiences in a supportive atmosphere.

For more information, call 1-888-44-REHAB (73422) or contact us.


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