Since 2009, the Multiple Sclerosis International Foundation has held an annual campaign to raise awareness for the 2.3 million people globally who live with MS. World MS Day takes place on the last Wednesday of May, with events taking place throughout the month leading up to it. This year, the event falls on the last day of May, Wednesday the 31st, and the theme is “Life with MS”.
What is MS?
Multiple Sclerosis, commonly referred to as MS, is a neurological disease that affects a person’s ability to control their movements. It occurs when myelin, which covers our neurological fibres, break down or become damaged. This affects our ability to send out and receive electrical signals from our brains, which results in uncontrollable or erratic twitches.
Most diagnoses take place between the ages of 25 and 31, with women twice as likely as men to develop the condition. Its exact causes are not yet known, but it is believed that genetics plays a role. Symptoms, severity, and speed of deterioration will vary considerably from person to person.
How Can Physiotherapy Help?
Although symptoms will vary on a case-by-case basis, most sufferers of MS stand to benefit from physiotherapy. A chartered physiotherapist will work with a patient to assess the exact issues they are having, and develop an exercise regimen that will address these issues and push the patient to reach their maximum abilities.
The most common problems experienced by those living with MS are balance, fatigue, and spasticity (when muscles are continually contracted). Physiotherapists working closely with their patients will be able to zone in on the problematic areas, and identify the exact underlying issue at play. This alone can be a very effective way of improving a patient’s quality of life, as although they may realise they have trouble balancing, they may never be able to identify that the problem area is in their thigh, or their lower back, without the help of a professional.
Pain is another common but widely variable side-effect of living with MS. Fortunately, physiotherapy can help patients learn to minimise their pain, and manage it in a far more effective manner. Again, because MS varies so drastically, this is a step that will require you to work closely with your physio. But while the work may be hard, it can result in a far greater quality of life, helping people to become more active and in control of their own bodies.
While there is no known cure or treatment for MS yet, a positive diagnosis is not the end of the road. Addressing these issues early and with dedication gives people the best chance of maximising their physical mobility and retaining the highest quality of life possible.