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.
Managing your life with MS isn't just about dealing with the symptoms you have right now. It's about thinking through what could happen in future -- the possible effects on your job, family, and finances -- and preparing for them.
Even if your symptoms are mild, planning can make you feel better and be more confident in your future.
"It's not bad luck to think about what you might do if your symptoms got worse," says Rosalind Kalb, PhD, a clinical psychologist and vice president of clinical care...
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
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.