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MS Patients Say Mobility Is Top Problem

But Surveys Show Many Multiple Sclerosis Patients Don't Discuss Walking Trouble With Doctors

Speak Up, Help Is Available continued...

In terms of mobility issues, "there are so many different areas to pursue," he says. Several mobility aids -- including canes, walkers, and electronic wheelchairs -- are available to help people with MS, he says. According to the surveys, 32% of people with MS do use some type of mobility aid to get around. Of these, 37% said they are embarrassed by their use of such aids.

"The tendency to underuse mobility devices is something we really want to address in the future," LaRocca says.

The first step is to evaluate the walking problem and identify the best strategies to improve it, he says. In addition to mobility aids, other tools are available depending on the problem. Exercise braces or electrical stimulation can help foot-drop (a compensatory technique that involves raising the heel on the stronger leg to make it easier to swing the weaker leg through); time and energy management can help curb MS-related fatigue, and there are drugs that can slow the disease course as well as treat spasticity and fatigue, he says.

Exercise can also help improve mobility problems among people with MS. "Seek out advice for a physical or occupational specialist to help develop an exercise program," says Brian Hutchinson, PT, MSCS, president of the Heuga Center for Multiple Sclerosis in Edward, Colo.

"People with MS can see the same benefits of regular exercise as people without MS," he says.

Acorda is investigating a drug called Fampridine-SR, which may improve walking ability in people with MS.

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