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Benefits of Physical Therapy for MS

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

    You may start working with a therapist right after you get a diagnosis and have follow-up appointments as you need them. Some hospitals, especially rehabilitation hospitals, have a physical therapist on staff that specializes in MS treatment. You will need to ask your doctor for a formal referral, but check with other people with MS for suggestions on where to go in your area.

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    Seeing a physical therapist can help you with:

    • Balance problems
    • Clumsiness and poor coordination
    • Fatigue
    • Fitness
    • Pain
    • Weakness
    • Strategies to save energy

    One to three sessions may be enough. On your first visit, your therapist will evaluate you and show you exercises you can do at home.

    He will also create a special fitness program that matches your strength and goals. Regular exercise helps with all types of MS and all levels of ability. You'll learn how to work around fatigue and heat sensitivity to get the full benefits.

    Your physical therapist may show you better ways to move or do household tasks. On follow-up visits, he’ll check your progress. You may learn:

    • Stretches to prevent or ease muscle spasms
    • Moves to keep muscles strong
    • Range-of-motion exercises
    • Tips to prevent falls
    • How to use canes, crutches, scooters, wheelchairs, or other aids, if necessary.

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

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

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Richard Senelick, MD on October 25, 2014
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