What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic, auto-immune reaction resulting in inflammation of the myelin (sheath that forms around nerves). This inflammation results in healing via scar tissue affecting the ability of those neurons to conduct electrical impulses at normal rates and speeds. Making it hard for the brain to send messages to the rest of your body.
What are the possible effects of Multiple Sclerosis?
- Uncoordinated movement
- Spasticity (muscle/s remain contracted)
- Sensory impairment
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Difficulty speaking and swallowing
- Inability to tolerate high temperature
HOW IS MS DIAGNOSED?
Your will have to first see your GP in which they will perform a neurological exam and request a clinical history. Other tests may also be used to diagnose MS including:
- Blood tests.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.
- Optical coherence tomography (OCT).
- Spinal tap (lumbar puncture).
- Visual evoked potentials (VEP) test.
How exercise can help?
- Decrease fatigue
- Improve walking endurance and speed
- Increase strength and maintain function
- Improve the quality of life
- Improve ability to do activities of daily living
- Improve balance and decrease the risk of falls
How can an Exercise Physiologist help?
An Exercise Physiologist will assess the effects of multiple sclerosis, talk with you about the goals you want to achieve and design an individualised exercise program. Exercise may consist of gait training, functional strength training, balance training and aerobic training.
It’s important to maximise the strength of the muscles which are functioning well to maximise your ability to participate in activities. Even though you may have compensation patterns, strengthening the muscles which are compensating will improve your ability to participate in the things you want to do. It’s also important to do the right amount of exercise as fatigue is very common with multiple sclerosis. Exercise has been shown to decrease fatigue but it is important to exercise is done at the correct pace, with a gradual increase and adequate rest in between sessions. Balance training may be of benefit to decrease the risk of falls and improve walking. Gait retraining can help you to maintain mobility. Assisted devices may be needed to aid walking and correct use of these aids are important. Exercise can have many positive effects and an Exercise Physiologist is an accredited professional who can educate patients on how exercise can help and prescribe exercises to have the greatest benefit.
How is Multiple Sclerosis classified?
Relapsing/remitting – Characterised by time periods of exacerbation and recovery.
Primary progressive – Characterised by the steady continuous progression of the disease.
Secondary progressive – Disease progresses secondarily to relapses and remission periods.