Information and Advice on Physiotherapy and Multiple Sclerosis
What is multiple sclerosis (MS)?
Multiple sclerosis is a life-long condition that affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). Nerves in the central nervous system are covered by an insulating layer called myelin. MS occurs when the body mistakenly attacks this myelin and breaks it down, which affects the way signals are sent through the nerves. The causes of MS are not fully understood but it may be related to a combination of factors, including environmental and genetic factors.
Symptoms of MS vary from person to person and can include visual disturbance, fatigue, decreased balance, changes in sensation, muscle stiffness, and reduced mobility.
How can physiotherapy help?
Physiotherapists specialise in the assessment and treatment of the mobility problems that may affect the person with MS, such as muscle weakness, stiffness and spasms, reduced co-ordination and impaired balance. Physiotherapy can help with maintaining physical independence, improving flexibility, strength and fitness. Physiotherapists can carry out a detailed assessment of balance and walking and provide advice and rehab that will help prevent falls. Physiotherapists often run groups for people with MS. As well as skilled support from the physiotherapist, these offer group exercise, peer support and encouragement.
Physiotherapists can provide an individualised exercise programme that takes into account your personal goals, daily life, symptoms, and type of MS. Treatment may include balance training, weight training, aerobic exercise, electrical stimulation. It can also help with fatigue management. Physiotherapy programmes can be continued at home and should be progressed when needed, thus helping the person with MS to manage their own condition. Physiotherapy can also help in a preventative manner by ensuring that further disability from muscle disuse/inactivity does not occur. It can be beneficial whatever the level of disability, but can be particularly valuable if physical symptoms progress or if recovering from a relapse or change in condition.
What will happen when I visit a physiotherapist?
An initial physiotherapy session may involve being asked questions such as when you were first diagnosed or when you first experienced symptoms. You may also be asked about your job, daily activities, fatigue levels, exercise, and balance. The physiotherapist may test your balance, flexibility and strength and demonstrate different exercises for you. At your initial assessment, the physiotherapist will propose an individualised treatment plan for you which will best support your goals and will involve a graded exercise programme suitable for your level of ability.
Useful links and resources
The content on this page is provided for general information purposes only and is not meant to replace a physiotherapy or medical consultation. The ISCP is not responsible for the content of any external sites, nor should selection be seen as an endorsement of them.