Anyone can get multiple sclerosis. But the disease has a gender gap that baffles experts.
Two to three times as many women get MS at ages 20-40 as men the same ages do. Doctors don’t know why that is, though they have some theories.
Hormones may be part of it, says Joseph Berger, MD, chief of the multiple sclerosis division at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “But we’re not yet sure.”
On the plus side, when young women get MS they are more likely than men to get a...
You may start working with a physical therapist right after you get a diagnosis. You can schedule follow-up appointments with her when you need them. Some hospitals have physical therapists on staff who specialize in MS treatment. You will need to ask your doctor for a formal referral, but check with other people who have MS for suggestions on where to go in your area.
On your first visit, your therapist will talk to you about your symptoms, see how well you can handle different tasks, and show you exercises you can do at home.
One to three sessions may be enough. On follow-up visits, you may learn:
Range-of-motion exercises, like straightening and bending your arms and legs
Tips to prevent falls
How to use canes, crutches, scooters, wheelchairs, or other aids, if necessary
Your therapist will also help you come up with a fitness program that’s good for your strength and goals. Regular exercise helps with all types of MS, but it can be hard when you’re tired or you get overheated easily. You'll learn how to work around these issues to get the most from your workouts.
Most therapists can give you more sessions to help you reach any specific goals you have, like overcoming a foot drag that slows your pace. Some may be able to come to your home to work with you.
If your MS symptoms make it hard to do your job, your therapist can take you through some tests and document the kind of trouble you’re having. It's called a functional capacity evaluation. It measures whether you are able to work an 8-hour day and may help if you need to apply for Social Security disability benefits.