As you may know, March was Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness Month. As a physical therapist who treats patients with MS, and someone with MS myself, I find I am in a unique position. Providing therapy for MS patients is something I have wanted to do since PT school, and I wrote my master’s thesis on the utilization of physical therapy by persons with MS. It is my goal to reemphasize the importance of physical activity for the MS population, as well as remind the community of the many available resources at their fingertips.
We all know that everyone benefits from physical activity, and it’s important to remember the same is true for persons with MS. However, some individuals may have more barriers than others, so activity must be individualized to fit your specific needs. I tell my patients to focus on three areas of activity—flexibility, strength and cardio. All three are needed for optimal health. My advice to all MS patients is to find some activities you enjoy that will address one or all of the above areas. Physical activity may be the key to maintaining cognitive sharpness and keeping weakness and spasticity at bay.
Below are some recommended exercises for MS patients:
- Swimming (or just walking in a pool)
- Walking (on the ground or a treadmill, even short durations are ok)
- Stationary bike or rower (if your legs are not working well, an upper body ergo meter is another option)
- Resistance training (either with weights or resistance bands)
The key is to keep moving, while staying cool and managing your fatigue. This could mean 10-minute workouts, several times a day. Some alternatives may include keeping up with regular daily activities that can also provide exercise, such as: gardening, vacuuming, sweeping or practicing standing from a variety of seat heights.
Overall, remember to keep moving, stay cool (especially as the summer months approach), and manage fatigue by shortening workouts or increasing daily activity frequency.
Below you can find some other resources that may be helpful:
Visit the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America for information on the following resources:
- My MS manager application for phones
- My MS Resource locator
- S.E.A.R.C.H. program for navigating various medications/therapies
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has a great online community with resources and information including:
- National MS Society Online Community – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Personal Stories
- MS Connection – online community
- MSWorld – website, message boards, chat rooms
Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers is another good resource.
- NARCOMS (North American Research Committee on Multiple Sclerosis)
If you don’t have MS, but know someone who does, consider fundraising for research via an MS walk or bike ride! Check out the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for more information.
– Kathy Bolstorff, PT, NCS, MSCS