Multiple sclerosis is one of the commonest central nervous system diseases. In the UK alone there are around 100,000
people recorded as having the condition, mostly diagnosed between the ages 20 and 40. It's well reported that in the Dales in County Durham there is a higher percentage than many other locations in
The condition is caused by damage to the myelin sheath, a fatty material that insulates nerves. Imagine it being like the protective covering around the wires of an electric cable.
The myelin protects the nerve and helps it transmit and receive its information. With the loss of myelin (demyelination) its accompanied by a disruption in the ability of the nerves to conduct electrical impulses to and from the brain, producing the varying symptoms we know as MS.
The sites where myelin is lost are called plaques or lesions and appear as hardened scar areas. These scars appear at different times and in different areas of the brain and spinal cord. The term multiple sclerosis meaning ‘many scars’.
The symptoms vary widely and may include weak limbs, tingling, blurred vision, unsteadiness and fatigue, immobility and spasticity in limbs. For some its characterised by periods of relapse and remission while, for others, it has a progressive pattern. But for everyone with MS, it makes life very unpredictable.
Over many years I've studied and worked with MS patients, the range of its effect varying considerably from individual to individual. On speaking to many diagnosed with the condition, a considerable amount feel once diagnosed little is done to help when they return home.
There is life after MS and many things that can be done. Having ran a successful MS group I would like to suggest the following.
• Become more educated on your condition, what it is, what causes it, how it can be helped by "yourself" and others.
• Don't deal with it alone, it can be an isolating, lonely disease. Make an effort to get out and meet others in a similar situation. You may find they have information that can help your condition and your quality of life.
• I understand how heavy that set of armour can be some days, but find anchors to help you motivate yourself.
• Make sure your treated and given rehabilitation by or under the guidance of a professionally qualified person with a specialism in this condition.
• Have a specialist devise you a home exercise program, that can be administered by yourself or others. Sometimes the upheaval of travelling to and from hospitals with long spaces in between can cause more problems.
• For the carers, you to struggle with the impact MS. Make time to look after yourself, so you can be strong enough to deal with the person your caring for.
Ideas to try
• Light massage: Reduces stiffness and oedema, increases flexibility and mobility. It can also alleviate fatigue and pain, whilst improving mood.
• Active and passive range of movement to all joints: This helps to work the joints and keep them healthy, reducing stiffness and spasticity.
• Active and passive muscle stretching: This helps to prevent and control muscle contracture and spasm, which limits the effectiveness and muscle function.
• Seated and standing strengthening of muscles around joints: This will improve your posture, help you to do more, gain better balance and improve your confidence when out and about or around the home.
• Manually dexterity exercise: Can help you with picking up a cup or writing.
• Temperature: MS is sensitive to temperature, especially heat.
• Breathing exercises: So important, If you think everything that happens in our lives physically and emotionally effect out breathing, so breath work can effect your emotion and physical activity.
• Relaxation and meditation: With all trauma there comes anxiety, tension and stress which may lead to depression. Relaxation with meditation not only helps with the above, it will help to calm and control your condition along with breathing techniques.
• Consider alternative medicines and alternative therapies through discussion with our GP.
• Standing and walking to improve your bone strength.
• Nutrition: Intake of the correct food and fluids to help your condition and immune system.
• Incontinence and pelvic floor problems can become problem: By doing muscle training exercise you can control this.
• Isolation, loneliness: keep in touch with friends, family and join groups.
Physiotherapy can help to assess physical difficulties, improve movement, teach you exercises to maintain independence. Working holistically as part of a multidisciplinary team, whether your a GP, physiotherapist, counsellor, nurse, speach therapist, masseuse, complimentary therapist, dietician etc.... helping the MS patient and their carer receive the best support they can.