Multiple Sclerosis: Tips to Manage Your Muscles

Medicine and physical therapy can strengthen your muscles, prevent stiffness, and improve flexibility when you have multiple sclerosis (MS). There are also some simple tricks you can try on your own to make them work better.

Put yourself in motion. Exercise keeps your muscles flexible and strong. It's a good idea to combine three types of exercise:

Strength training. To keep your muscles strong, work them with light weights or exercise bands a couple of times a week. If you get a muscle spasm in the middle of your routine, stop and wait a few minutes for it to relax. Also stop if you feel any pain. Exercise should never hurt.

Range of motion. To prevent stiffness, do exercises that take your joints through their full range of motion. For example, lift your arm up and over your head, or bring your leg out to the side and back.

Stretching. Do a series of stretches at least twice a week. Pay special attention to muscles that tend to get tight and spasm, like the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. As you stretch, slowly move each muscle into position. Hold the position for up to 1 minute. Then gently release it.

You can do these exercises alone, or you can work with a physical therapist who will show you how to do each movement safely and effectively.

Exercise as often as you can without tiring yourself out. If the moves take too much effort, try working out in a cool-temperature pool. You'll put less pressure on your joints that way, so you'll use less energy.

Rest when you need to. Stay active, but don't overdo it. Balance activity with periods of rest to give your muscles a chance to recover.

To help you sleep better at night, try relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing before bed. Massage is another great way to soothe tight muscles so you can sleep.

Try a new position. Sometimes you can relieve muscle spasms just by shifting position. To ease spasms in your knees and hips, lie on your stomach. Or turn on your side and put a pillow or rolled-up towel between your knees.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on April 19, 2017

Sources

Multiple Sclerosis International Federation: "Spasticity in MS."

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada: "Spasticity, Mobility Problems, and Multiple Sclerosis."

Multiple Sclerosis Trust: "Weakness."

National MS Society: "Spasticity," "Stretching with a Helper for People with MS."

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland: "Muscle Spasms and Stiffness."

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: "Multiple Sclerosis and Spasticity."

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