As a physical therapist, you’ll most likely come across many patients who have suffered from or are currently suffering from multiple sclerosis. These multiple sclerosis patients often have trouble with movement and carrying out daily activities. MS is unpredictable. It fluctuates and changes from month to month and person to person. For some people, MS is only mildly intrusive. The symptoms and signs of the disease are minuscule compared to more invasive conditions, such as a spinal cord injury or stroke.
Luckily, with the help of physical therapy and other forms of care, these patients will have the chance to control the disease and make a positive impact on their overall health.
6 Ways PT Helps Multiple Sclerosis Patients
Exercise is essential not just for overall well-being, but also to help manage symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). In fact, exercise might even slow progression of the disease, according to a 2012 review published in Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders. Below are just a few ways that you can use PT to help MS patients.
1. Strength Training
One of the biggest symptoms for multiple sclerosis patients is a loss of strength. The disease attacks muscle tissue, so many patients will begin to feel weak and be unable to perform as well as they used to. Simple exercises like wall squats and hand weights provide minimum resistance so your patients can build up strength while avoiding injury.
2. Cardio Training
Encourage your patients to take daily walks around the neighborhood or on the treadmill. One of the best ways to combat MS is to stay active when you can. While you shouldn’t expect them to run marathons on the weekends, you should encourage them to stick to a routine that involves physical activity. Keeping muscles and joints active can go a long way.
3. Reduce Spasms
Another issue that Multiple Sclerosis patients deal with is muscle spasms. These involuntary movements can be very discomforting and sometimes painful. Stretching with a physical therapist can help alleviate the pain and studies have shown that it can reduce the number of spasms an MS patient will experience. This stretching can also help with balance, coordination, and core strength. Make sure your MS patients continuously stretch in the morning and before any other physical activity.
4. Using Walking Aids
Many physical therapy programs will also show Multiple Sclerosis patients how to use walking aids such as canes, walkers, and scooters. You should encourage your patients that there is no shame in using walking aids, this equipment is designed to give them the freedom of mobility so they can walk around as they please. You should be able to implement a routine that allows patients to get familiar with the equipment and grow their confidence using the walking aids.
5. Increase Coordination
Another major issue that MS patients will deal with is losing some coordination. As the muscles deteriorate, many patients will often feel like they have a tough time regaining their balance. PT can help strengthen the balance and coordination of Multiple Sclerosis Patients as they regain mobility. Make sure that you’re implementing exercises and routines that will help with balance and coordination into your patient’s regiment.
6. Set Goals
The best thing you can do to help your patients is to set goals for them. MS can be an exhausting and alienating disease, and goals can be the light at the end of the tunnel that your patient needs. Make sure these goals force your patient to work hard, but are attainable as well. If a goal is set too high, it can discourage a patient, and if a goal is set too low, it won’t motivate them
In any case, physical therapy (PT) can be an important treatment option for people with MS. PT can help patients learn to cope with their changing bodies, develop strength and stamina, and regain abilities after a disease flare.