Treating Multiple Sclerosis with Physical Therapy

By Western Berks Physical Therapy on August 13th, 2019

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive neurologic disease that damages the nerves. This damage often leads to serious symptoms such as numbness and tingling, weakness, muscle pain and vision problems.

In some people, multiple sclerosis can be aggressive and advance quickly. In other people, it can be mild and progress at a much slower pace, with long periods of inactivity. Physical therapy is an important part of treatment for people with multiple sclerosis.

Physical therapy for multiple sclerosis involves exercises to strengthen your muscles and improve your gait, balance and coordination. It also involves stretches to help you maintain mobility and prevent muscle spasms. Physical therapy can also include training on how to use mobility aids like a cane, walker, or wheelchair.

Physical therapy may be helpful at various stages of your condition, and for different types of multiple sclerosis.

At diagnosis

At the time of your multiple sclerosis diagnosis, it’s important to meet with a physical therapist for a baseline evaluation. This exam allows the therapist to see what your body is capable of now so they can compare that with your future abilities. You can also discuss your physical limitations and understand what levels of exercise and physical activity are appropriate for you.

During a relapse

A relapse, also called a flare or exacerbation, is a period of time when symptoms of multiple sclerosis are more frequent or severe. During this period, you may have greater difficulty with everyday tasks that include:

  • working
  • cooking
  • walking
  • bathing

Your physical therapist will know how the relapse is affecting you by conducting a physical exam and comparing it with your baseline evaluation. After a relapse you should meet with your physical therapist to resume physical therapy. Therapy after a relapse may help you regain some of the strength you might have lost during the relapse.

For progressive multiple sclerosis

If you have primary progressive multiple sclerosis, you don’t experience relapses. Instead, your disease is on a gradual, constant decline. If you’re diagnosed with this type of multiple sclerosis, ask your doctor to refer you to a physical therapist right away. It’s crucial to your health and well-being that you start physical therapy as soon as you can. Physical therapy can teach you how to compensate for the changes you’ll experience. You may also need to learn how to use a mobility aid, such as a standing device or wheelchair.

For advanced multiple sclerosis

People with advanced multiple sclerosis have severe multiple sclerosis symptoms. In most cases, people with advanced multiple sclerosis are nonambulatory. This means they cannot walk or get around without help from another person or a motorized device. Also, people at this stage have an increased risk of developing other health conditions such as osteoporosis or epilepsy.

People with advanced multiple sclerosis can still benefit from physical therapy. For instance, physical therapy can help you learn to sit properly, develop upper body strength, and maintain the ability to use mobility aids.

If you have multiple sclerosis, talk with your doctor about your course of treatment. If you would like to begin working with a physical therapist, ask your doctor for a referral to Western Berks Physical Therapy.

Multiple sclerosis is different for everyone, and some people may respond well to certain exercises while others won’t. Be honest with your doctor and your therapist about your symptoms and how you’re feeling so that they can create a physical therapy program that’s right for you.

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