What is MS? How can we help?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). MS is an auto-immune disease, where the immune system turns on itself and attacks the nerve cells, damaging the protective sheath. This process is called demyelination. The demyelination disrupts the ‘messages’ being transmitted from and to the brain, causing them to slow down, become distorted or not get through at all. Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves.
It’s estimated that 130,000 people in the UK have MS. Every week around 100 more people are diagnosed. It’s nearly three times more common in women than in men. Most people are diagnosed in their 20s and 30s, but it can be diagnosed in younger and older people. Everyone's MS is different so no two people will have the same range and severity of symptoms, even if they are closely related.
Signs and symptoms of MS vary widely and depend on the amount of nerve damage and which nerves are affected. Some people with severe MS may lose the ability to walk independently or at all, while others may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms. There's no cure for MS but treatments can help speed recovery from attacks, modify the course of the disease and manage symptoms.
Symptoms can include
Other symptoms may also include:
Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs that typically occurs on one side of your body at a time
Electric-shock sensations with certain neck movements, especially bending the neck forward (Lhermitte sign)
Tremor, lack of coordination or unsteady gait
Partial or complete loss of vision, usually in one eye at a time, often with pain during eye movement
Prolonged double vision, Blurry vision
Tingling or pain in parts of your body
Problems with bowel and bladder function
Most people with MS have a relapsing-remitting disease course. They experience periods of new symptoms or relapses that develop over days or weeks and usually improve partially or completely. These relapses are followed by quiet periods of disease remission that can last months or even years.
Small increases in body temperature can temporarily worsen signs and symptoms of MS, but these aren't considered true disease relapses. At least 50% of those with relapsing-remitting MS eventually develop a steady progression of symptoms, with or without periods of remission, within 10 to 20 years from disease onset. This is known as secondary-progressive MS.
The worsening of symptoms usually includes problems with mobility and gait. The rate of disease progression varies greatly among people with secondary-progressive MS. Some people with MS experience a gradual onset and steady progression of signs and symptoms without any relapses, known as primary progressive MS.
What treatments are available?
In general, treatments for MS include both medication and self-care strategies. The emphasis is on minimizing symptoms and improving general health. No one treatment works for all symptoms but trying a variety of treatment strategies can have a cumulative effect. There are several treatments that can help control the condition. The treatment you need will depend on the specific symptoms and difficulties you have. It may include:
treating relapses with short courses of steroid medicine to speed up recovery
specific treatments for individual MS symptoms
treatment to reduce the number of relapses using medicines called disease-modifying therapies
Disease-modifying therapies may also help to slow or reduce the overall worsening of disability in people with a type of MS called relapsing remitting MS, and in those with a type called secondary progressive MS who have relapses. Unfortunately, there's currently no treatment that can slow the progress of a type of MS called primary progressive MS, or secondary progressive MS in the absence of relapses.
A variety of different therapies can help reduce the effect that MS has on your body and your life. Examples include:
A physiotherapist can teach you exercises that will improve your strength, flexibility and stamina. Any physical activity programme should begin by establishing your physical activity capability at a level that does not worsen your symptoms and should only be offered on the basis that it is delivered or overseen by a physiotherapist with training and expertise in MS.
Gentle low-impact exercise, such as physiotherapy classes, yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi can help maintain bone mass, improve balance, reduce stress, and increase strength. Moving your body may be the last thing you feel like doing, but you have to believe that it really does help. It’s hard at first, but it does get easier. Water-based exercises may also be particularly helpful.
An occupational therapist can help you make adjustments to your work area or the way you perform certain tasks that will cause less stress on your body.
Talking with a counsellor can help strengthen your belief in your abilities and teach you strategies for dealing with stressful situations. Mediation and Mindfulness can also be effective.
Acupuncture appears to modestly reduce many types of chronic pain, so it's not surprising that many people with MS are interested in trying it. While the studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture for MS symptoms are somewhat mixed, most suggest that it may have a beneficial role.
MS can be difficult to treat, and a combination of treatments may be necessary to control your symptoms. If you're having trouble finding relief for your symptoms, it may be worth trying acupuncture. But if your symptoms don't begin to improve within a few weeks, acupuncture may not be the right treatment for you.
Myofascial Release Therapy (MFR).
This is a hands-on treatment performed on the skin with no oils or creams. By following the unique lines of tension in each patient’s body, the MFR therapist can reach deeply into the tissues and uncover significant restrictions.
MFR involves applying gentle, sustained pressure into these connective tissue restrictions to eliminate pain and restore motion. By going slowly and waiting for the body’s natural rhythm, the fascia responds by elongating, rehydrating, and reorganizing. If you're having trouble finding relief for your pain, it may be worth trying MFR. But if your symptoms don't begin to improve within a few weeks, MFR may not be the right treatment for you.
This is an effective, and safe means of treating and managing the various symptoms of MS, particularly fatigue and ‘brain fog’. Oxygen therapy is an intermittent inhalation of 98% oxygen in a barochamber at a pressure higher than the normal atmosphere.
Oxygen Therapy causes a dramatic increase in the amount of dissolved oxygen carried by the blood which enables oxygenation of areas with compromised circulation. It also activates oxidant-antioxidant system, stimulates angio- and neurogenesis, modulates inflammatory response, induces brain neuroplasticity and possesses analgesic effect. Oxygen therapy involves a 20-session initial protocol, consecutive sessions, then weekly sessions to help manage symptoms
Links to Associated Articles
Disclaimer: The information provided on this website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment