Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is a disease that damages the body’s central nervous system. MS carries a wide range of symptoms and the causes are unknown, which makes diagnosing it very difficult. Through some medical tests, doctors are able to find out more about who is affected. Anybody can develop MS, although people are typically diagnosed in early to middle adulthood, and the disease affects women more than men. MS causes miscommunications between the control center (your brain) and the highways (your nerves). There are four types of MS, with the symptoms of each varying from person to person. Since MS is a disease affecting the central nervous system, the symptoms vary in type and severity from person to person. The more common symptoms include: fatigue, vertigo, gait and balance difficulties, numbness, muscle Spasms, and difficulty with vision, as well as, cognitive and emotional issues.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for MS, although there are several treatment methods to manage symptoms including medication, physical activity, and physical, occupational and speech rehabilitation.
When developing an exercise program for someone with MS, it is important to have a conversation about their symptoms, severity, and current treatment plan. Using what they learn about their client’s particular case, an exercise physiologist can begin to build a program that is both safe and effective for that individual. A well written exercise program will have plenty of benefit by improving quality of life, mood, self efficacy, and decreasing fall risk. The increases in overall health will lead to improvements in symptom management for someone with MS. Daily stretching to help manage spacity and retain range of motion, strength to decrease joint pain and fall risk, and cardiovascular health for managing fatigue.
Depending on the client’s individual needs, the physiologist may have to implement frequent breaks to avoid fatigue and over heating, avoid exercises that may trigger a spasm, or spend extra time practicing balance. For an individual considering starting an exercise program, research availability of programs in your area. Look at facilities that can accommodate and know about your condition. Consider researching some adaptive gear, proper attire and footwear. As someone begins and continues an exercise routine, as always, listen to your body. Communication between the client with MS and the fitness professional will be monumental in establishing a healthy routine to keep them happy, healthy, and living to their fullest.
There are many resources available with information pertaining to MS and the best ways to treat. For general information, check out www.nationalmssociety.org, the site contains a plethora of information about MS, how it affects people, living with it, exercise considerations and more. You can also contact a Fitness Professional with questions you may have about starting a program, many are willing to help.
By Matthew Rhodes, M.S.