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Physical Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

Physical therapy can help you live better and learn to work around MS symptoms.

You may start working with a therapist right after being diagnosed with MS and continue as needed from time to time. It can help with:

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  • Balance problems
  • Clumsiness and poor coordination
  • Fatigue
  • Fitness
  • Pain
  • Weakness

Many hospitals have physical therapists who work with people with MS. If you think PT may help you, ask your doctor for a referral. You may need a written prescription from the doctor.

Physical Therapy Basics

Sometimes one to three sessions of physical therapy can be enough. The first visit includes an evaluation and exercises for you to do at home. These moves address the physical symptoms of MS.

Your therapist will also create a special fitness program for your unique strengths and goals. Regular exercise helps people with all types of MS and at all levels of ability. You'll learn how to work around fatigue and heat sensitivity to get the full benefits of exercise.

Your physical therapist may show you better ways to move or do household tasks. Follow-up visits check on your progress and may review and expand your home program. You may learn:

  • Stretches to prevent or ease spastic muscles
  • Moves to keep muscles strong
  • Range-of-motion exercises
  • Gait training for easier walking
  • How to use canes, crutches, scooters, wheelchairs, or other aids

Most therapists can provide more sessions to help you reach your goals, like overcoming a foot drag that slows your pace.

Further Help and Disability Testing

A physical therapist may also tell your doctor when you need extra help. That could be anything from having some sessions at home to getting PT in a skilled nursing facility.

For people whose MS symptoms make work difficult, a physical therapist can closely evaluate and document the problems. It's called a functional capacity evaluation. It can measure whether you are able to work an 8-hour day and may help when applying for Social Security disability pay.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on January 16, 2014
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