Learn About Multiple Sclerosis & Physical Therapy

Mar25th 2021

By Shaina Flanzraich, PT, DPT, NCS, CSRS

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) affects 400,000 individuals in the United States and 1 million individuals between 16-65 years old. MS is a neurological disease that affects the brain and/or spinal cord. The body has an abnormal immune response because something on the nerve appears “foreign” to the body like a virus. The body then attacks the nerves creating a plaque/lesion.

The most common symptoms of MS are heat sensitivity, fatigue, weakness, impaired sensation, impaired vision, dizziness and/or spasms and muscles stiffness. Exercising has been show to improve fatigue levels and help reduce the body’s natural inflammatory responses. Physical therapy at any stage of MS can help improve quality of life.

Below is an explanation of different types of Multiple Sclerosis and how physical therapy can help.

1. Benign: A plaque or lesion may show up on imaging, however, patient is asymptomatic: Physical therapy can help with creating a new healthy lifestyle with a fitness routine to help reduce inflammation in the body.

2. Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS): Patient experiences neurological symptoms for 24 hours and then makes a full recovery back to 100%: Physical therapy can help with creating a new healthy lifestyle with a fitness routine to help reduce inflammation in the body.

3. Relapsing Remitting: Patient will experience an exacerbation of symptoms and make almost a full recovery to 80%: Initially Physical therapy can help with restoring strength, balance and the ability to perform daily activities without assistance. Physical therapy can also help fight fatigue and slow down the progression of MS through an exercise routine. As MS progresses, physical therapy can help with maintaining daily activities such as getting in/out of bed, standing to cook or brush your teeth, and walking.

4. Primary Progressive: Patient will experience a slow progression of neurological symptoms with minimal periods of exacerbations or remissions. Physical therapy initially can assist with maintaining the ability to perform daily activities such as cleaning, cooking, and showering with strengthening and balance exercises. As MS progresses, physical therapy can help with maintaining the ability to perform transfers such as getting in/out of a chair or bed, getting on/off the toilet, and balance to help with bathing.

5. Secondary Progressive: Patient will initially experience an exacerbation of symptoms, make some recovery hitting a plateau and then slowly have a progression of neurological symptoms. Physical therapy can help with restoring strength, balance and the ability to perform daily activities without assistance. Physical therapy can also help fight fatigue and slow down the progression of MS through an exercise routine. As MS progresses, physical therapy can help with maintaining daily activities such as getting in/out of bed, standing to cook, or brush your teeth and walking.

6. Malignant: Patient has multiple lesions throughout the brain and spine, significantly limiting ability to perform functional activities. Through strengthening, balance and walking training, physical therapy can help with maintaining daily activities such as getting in/out of bed, standing to cook or brush your teeth, and walking short distances.

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