26th Aug 2015
Physical Therapy Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, usually progressive, disease that primarily affects young adults. More than 350,000 people in the United States and 2.5 million worldwide have been diagnosed with MS. Multiple Sclerosis
is a disease that involves the loss of myelin, a material that covers and protects the nerves in the body's central nervous system. Without myelin, nerves cannot properly communicate with each other, creating a multitude of symptoms. Multiple Sclerosis symptoms vary from person to person, depending on what part of the nervous system is affected but can affect areas that control movement, sensation, and mental processes. More than 91% of all persons with MS report difficulty walking, and difficulty with body movements. However, with appropriate medical support and physical therapy, the disease process can be controlled, and movement can be improved and maintained.
Top 5 Treatment Options for MS
- Strengthening: Strengthening exercises, such as using a treadmill or stationary bike, are beneficial for someone with early MS. In general, the exercise program is based on the individual’s ability and progressed at that person’s tolerance level. The goal of physical therapy in the early stages of MS is to help the patient perform all their normal activities. As MS progresses, further disability can occur. Research in physical therapy has shown that aerobic exercise using equipment like a treadmill or stationary bike improves the patient’s leg strength and aids in walking, balance, endurance and mood.
- Balance Training: More than 78% of patients diagnosed with MS complain of balance abnormalities. In a recent study, more than half of MS patients in the study reported frequent falls (more than two within a confined period of time) showing that even ambulant patients with MS are at risk for frequent falls. Balance training using a balance platform for stabilization along with a balance trainer, pad or board can improve deficits in postural control and measures of balance.
- Whirlpool Therapy: Hydrotherapy, or warm water therapy in whirlpools, consists of three main healing ingredients; heat, buoyancy, and massage. Overall, hydrotherapy studies have shown that the health benefits of immersion in warm water with massage jet action include the relaxation of muscles, lowering of blood pressure, and loosening of joints. The muscle relaxing and joint loosening benefits of whirlpools help patients with MS who suffer from spasticity from muscle spasms and chronic achiness in the joints.
- Cold Compression: Slight decreases in body temperature have been documented to produce a temporary relief of MS-associated symptoms. Cold compression therapy delivers cold therapy that works faster, penetrates deeper and lasts longer than other treatment modalities. Also, cold compression units come with an assortment of wraps, allowing for treatment of all body parts.
- Stretching & Range of Motion Exercises: The physical therapist will utilize gentle stretching movements to relieve muscle spasms and encourage range of motion in all joints. These exercises are beneficial as they maintain and improve flexibility and can be modified as needed.
With a progressive disease, early and varied treatment options are the best course of action with physical therapy as one of the best tools for a MS patient. Our number one goal when treating patients with MS is keeping them ambulatory and being able to participate in their day to day activities. And with progressive treatment, we’re able to keep this progressive disease in check.
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