In some ways, each person with multiple sclerosis lives with a different illness. Although nerve damage is always involved, the pattern is unique for each individual with MS.
Specific experiences with MS may vary widely, but doctors and researchers have identified several major types of MS. The categories are important because they help predict disease severity and response to treatment.
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 different 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 as well as review and expand your home program. You may learn:
Stretches to prevent or ease spastic muscles
Moves to keep muscles strong
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 needing to have some sessions at home to getting PT in a skilled nursing facility.
For people whose MS symptoms make it difficult to work, 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 eight-hour day and may help when applying for social security disability pay.