Multiple sclerosis (often known by its abbreviated term MS) is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the body’s immune system attacks itself. The disease affects the central nervous system which comprises of the brain and spinal cord and symptoms may be present in different parts of the body. MS is a progressive disease and there is no known cure, however, it may go into remission, sometimes for quite lengthy periods. In Australia, there is much research currently being done into MS with the hope that a cure is not too far into the future.
Physiotherapy plays an important role in the treatment plan for dealing with MS as muscular dysfunction is a common major symptom.
Some of the ways physiotherapy can help those with MS are by:
- Improving balance and co-ordination
- Managing pain and muscle spasms
- Improving range-of-motion in arms and legs
- Assessing and improving gait
- Maintaining and restoring strength to weak muscles
- Decreasing muscle stiffness
During the acute episodes of the illness, treatment may be in a hospital. Then as the symptoms become manageable the patient may be treated in an outpatient clinic or at home. Treatment for multiple sclerosis will be tailored to the symptoms that are present. For pain, joint stiffness and muscle spasm, we may use gentle stretching, massage and joint mobilisation.
Physiotherapy also addresses posture, balance and co-ordination issues in the MS patient through several exercises and activities. Strengthening exercises, balance exercises and motor control exercises as well as education about the principles behind our muscular rehabilitation form an important part of the programme.
For patients who cannot walk, we will recommend and have them fitted with a wheelchair or other mobility aid. Some patients may have difficulty getting in and out of bed. In addition to training the patients on the best way to transfer themselves safely, we may advise on safety aids such as bed rails to prevent falls and make transfers easier.
MS can be a debilitating illness for which unfortunately there is yet no cure. However, with medical attention and physiotherapy, MS patients can benefit greatly in terms of improved function, strength, balance, coordination and flexibility. If you or someone you know has MS, give us a call. We can help.