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Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

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How Physical Therapy Can Help Your MS

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Physical therapy can ease many of your MS symptoms and help you get around better.

It can help you with:

Recommended Related to Multiple Sclerosis

What’s the Difference Between ALS and MS?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are different diseases with some similar features and symptoms. They both: Affect your muscles and your ability to move your body Attack your brain and spinal cord Have “sclerosis” in their name Cause scarring or hardening around nerve cells They have some key differences, though. MS is an autoimmune disease that causes your body to attack itself. ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a nervous system disorder that...

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  • Balance problems
  • Trouble moving your body
  • Feeling tired
  • Finding an exercise routine that’s right for you
  • Pain
  • Weakness
  • Ways to save your energy
  • Better ways to move or do everyday tasks

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.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Richard Senelick, MD on January 29, 2016
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