Canada has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis with almost 1 in 385 Canadians suffering from it. The use of physical therapy for managing multiple sclerosis is higher than ever. Wondering how physical therapy can help?
Multiple Sclerosis can cause various symptoms such as body pain and weakness. Physical therapy includes treatment modalities to improve your gait and strengthen your muscles. It also involves exercises to improve or maintain mobility and prevent muscle spasms. Your physical therapist can also train you to use mobility aids, such as a walker, cane, or wheelchair.
What is Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease of the spinal cord and brain. This condition affects the protecting covering of the nerves, thus damaging nerves. Some common symptoms are weakness, muscle pain, tingling and numbness, and vision problems.
Role of Physical Therapy at Different Stages
PT plays an important role during different stages of multiple sclerosis. Here is a gist:
- Diagnosis: Physiotherapy, during diagnosis, involves exercises to deal with fatigue and improving balance.
- Relapse: The severity of symptoms during a relapse or flare are severe and may interfere with your ability to carry out daily functions. Physical therapy can help you to carry out daily activities with ease such as working, walking, cooking, bathing.
- After relapse: The goal of PT is to help you perform daily activities to baseline functioning. Usually, a break of two weeks is taken to allow you to recover from fatigue and other factors.
- Progressive: During this stage, the condition progressively increases. Physical therapy can help you sustain changes your body is going through. It can also help you to use mobility aids.
- Advanced: In the advanced stage, you may face difficulty in moving around. There is also an increased risk of weak bones. PT can help to increase upper body strength and the ability to use mobility aids.
Aims of Physiotherapy
- To maintain voluntary control
- Re-educate to sustain postural mechanism
- Prevent abnormal movement
- Avoid relapse
- Prevent falls
- Develop stamina and strength
- To cope with changing body needs
- Stimulate perceptual and sensory experience
Exercise helps to improve strength and is beneficial for the quality of life and mood. Your physiotherapist will decide the exercise frequency, duration, and intensity based on your condition. Weight-bearing exercise can be helpful to combat weakness and fatigue.
Poor balance and reduced walking speed increase the risk of falls in people with multiple sclerosis. A physiotherapist will curate balance exercises to improve gait and balance and thus reduced the risk of falls. Low to moderate-intensity aerobic exercises improve fitness and reduces fatigue.
Besides strengthening your muscles, aquatic exercises also help in improving mental health and energy levels. The lowered impact of gravity in aquatic exercise aids people with even severe weakness to stand and exercise.
Manipulation, massage, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) aids in relieving pain and improving muscle strength and mobility.
Physical therapy plays an important role in various stages of multiple sclerosis from diagnosis to relapse. Of note, visit a registered physiotherapist before trying any treatment options.