Most of the nerves in your body are covered with a protective layer called myelin. It’s a lot like the insulation on electric wires. It helps messages from your brain move quickly and smoothly through your body, like electricity flows from a power source.
Demyelinating disorders damage myelin. When this happens, scar tissue forms in its place. Brain signals can’t move across scar tissue as quickly, so your nerves don’t work as well as they should. As a result, you might have trouble talking,...
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:
Stretches to prevent or ease muscle spasms
Moves to keep muscles strong
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.