Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition, whereby the myelin sheath (protective covering) around the nerves is damaged, disrupting communication between the brain and the body. MS can result in numerous different symptoms including: fatigue, pain, impaired coordination, loss of strength, vision loss, and severity may also differ. Depending on the type of MS you have and where the lesions are, will impact symptoms, severity and duration. MS Australia reports that most people are diagnosed between 20-40yrs old and affects roughly three times as many woman as men.
MS has no current cure, but exercise has been seen to manage and slow progression of symptoms, as well as other therapy modalities. The early exercise is undertaken after a MS diagnosis, the better outcomes are. There are specific recommendations for exercise and MS to ensure that patients are getting the best treatment. Fatigue is an important symptom to take into consideration when starting an exercise routine. It is suggested that exercising in the morning may be more appropriate to reduce the impact of tiredness on sessions and also consider shorter exercise sessions throughout the day as opposed to one longer session. Exercising when it is cooler or in a controlled environment may also help reduce heat induced symptoms (ie fatigue, numbness, blurry vision, tremor, confusion, imbalance, and weakness).
Exercise therapy needs to include: resistance training, cardiovascular exercise, balance training and stretching. Each aspect of these needs to be individualized to each patient after a comprehensive assessment and history.
- 8-15 reps
- Range from 3-5 but recommended to complete 2-3 sessions per week
- Moderate intensity
- 20-40mins or two shorter sessions completed on the same day
- 2-3 times per week
- Home and supervised
- Variable surfaces
- Change visual and proprioceptive inputs
- Minimum of 45mins once per week
Aquatic exercises can also be very beneficial for patients with MS, with all of the above exercises being able to be targeted in the water.
The MS Australia website has some great resources for health professionals as well as those with MS. Most important thing is that if you are not currently exercising or have had a recent diagnosis, that having an assessment and seeking help is the best place to start.