Physical Therapy | Balance | Neurological Recovery
Physical Therapy For MS: How Can It Help?
When someone has been diagnosed with MS (aka multiple sclerosis), if you are their caregiver, you probably have a lot of questions. How quickly will my loved one progress? How can I help them? And most importantly, what treatment options are available?
While the diagnosis is inevitably life-changing, there are some treatment options that can improve their quality of life and help them move better. One of these options is physical therapy. Our physical therapists at EW Motion Therapy are experts in the science of movement, and they want to help your loved one move better. Even if you choose physical therapy elsewhere, we still want to educate you on physical therapy as a treatment option for MS.
This article offers advice for caregivers by discussing how MS affects movement, and how physical therapy can help. With this information, you can take the diagnosis in stride and focus on giving your loved one the best possible quality of life.
How does MS affect movement?
MS is an autoimmune disease that affects myelin sheaths around nerves in the central nervous system. Nerves, like electrical cords, need insulation to function properly, and when that protective coating degenerates, you can begin to experience nerve dysfunction. The dysfunction culminates in lesions, which can be present anywhere in your central nervous system, from your brain all the way down your brain stem and spinal cord.
Because of the variability in the location of lesions, MS can present in various ways. Some patients experience vision deficits or difficulty walking, as well as muscle weakness, and all of these symptoms can have a lasting effect on daily functioning and balance. The severity of symptoms can also vary depending on your immune response to the myelin sheath degeneration, and you can experience periods of remission and relapse.
How can physical therapy help?
When you bring yourself or your loved one to physical therapy for their MS symptoms, their therapist will focus on maximizing their quality of life and helping them maintain mobility, depending on how their MS presents. Helping patients maintain some amount of independence is critical for not only navigating the relapse periods of the disease but also for the mental health of the MS patient. Depending on the presentation, the physical therapist will work on mobility, especially in the lower limbs, but also the upper limbs to promote accomplishing daily tasks. They will also teach coping mechanisms for the patient’s specific issues and treat them differently depending on whether they are in remission or relapse.
There are usually many doctors involved in caring for people with MS, and a physical therapist may seem like just another medical professional. But the best physical therapists want to be advocates for the patient’s well-being, bringing together all the information from your care team and giving you practical steps you can take at home to promote the most independence. The therapist’s ultimate goal should be to promote independence during remission so the patient can maintain their daily activities during relapse.
How can caregivers help?
Now you know more about physical therapy for MS and how it can help your loved one maintain independence for as long as possible. An MS diagnosis is difficult news for anyone to receive since the disease presentation can vary so widely. Caregivers carry a large burden since they are so involved in day-to-day care, especially if the disease progresses and they lose more mobility. Physical therapists work not only with the patient but with caregivers, to provide emotional support and education on how to best care for their loved one. Caregivers also have the important role of providing medical history and giving feedback on how the physical therapy is working, so it is essential that both patient and caregiver leave each session feeling heard and understood.
While MS is a difficult diagnosis, giving the best possible quality of life is paramount. We enjoy working with caregivers at EW Motion Therapy because we see the love they have for the person in their care and how much they want to help. Our physical therapists will ensure that your loved one can maintain as much independence as possible and live their lives to the fullest. If you are interested in our physical therapy services, fill out the Request an Appointment form on our website, and someone from our staff will contact you within 48 hours with your next steps.