By Dr David Cork - Osteopath

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

MS is a disease that affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). The disease causes the body’s own immune system to mistakenly attack the myelin of the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin is material that creates a sheath around nerves to protect them and to speed up nerve impulses.

Multiple sclerosis literally means “many scars”, referring to the damage to the nerves that accumulates throughout the course of the disease. The damage slows nerve impulses, which means they are unable to communicate messages effectively, and leads to a range of symptoms.

MS symptoms can include loss of ability to use the arms or legs, coordination issues, vision changes, pain, fatigue, changes in bowel or bladder function, memory and concentration problems.

We do not know what triggers the body’s immune system to attack the myelin and there is no cure. Although the disease progressively worsens overtime, there re treatments that can improve quality of life for people with this condition.

Currently 2.8 million people are living with MS worldwide, including approximately 26,500 people in Australia where MS affects three times more women than men.

Every person’s path with MS is different

On average, people are diagnosed with MS between 20-40 years of age. There are different types of MS and it can start off being very minor. It is often poorly understood and the presentation can vary significantly from being very mild -and not visible to others- to complete paralysis of the upper and lower body, requiring high care needs. Some types, particularly in the early years, can be characterised by periods of stability with episodes of symptoms. These relapses often occur without warning but can be associated with a period of illness or stress.

The level of disability changes over the course of the person’s life: deterioration may be very minor or can progress to significant disability.

Treatment of MS

Currently the main treatment used is medication which can have two main purposes:

  1. To alter the immune system to slow the progression of the disease
  2. To reduce the severity of symptoms

Prompt treatment can significantly slow the progression of MS so getting an early diagnosis and referral to a Neurologist as soon as possible is important make sure you are getting the most up-to-date treatment options.
There is also evidence that both exercise, diet and other general health strategies have a positive influence on people with MS’s overall health and improve their quality of life.

For example regular physical activity can help:

  • Reduce fatigue levels & increase energy levels
  • Improve endurance (cardiovascular fitness)
  • Improve balance, coordination and muscle strength
  • Improve posture and flexibility
  • Improve mood, confidence and sense of wellbeing
  • Improve alertness and concentration
  • Improve ability to do everyday tasks
  • Reduce risk of falls
  • Optimise symptom recovery after a relapse

How we can help

A customised exercise program is very useful for people with MS. As discussed, the condition can vary significantly: for example, some people can have good use of their upper body but poor use of their lower body or vice versa. Specific muscles may be affected and aids may be required to help with exercise and can help make life so much easier.

At South Eastern Active Health we treat each patient as an individual, using hands-on therapies and exercise rehabilitation techniques to get the best outcome for each person. We treat a number of patients with MS and love seeing the improvements that we can make together. The clinic is fully accessible, with ramp access and onsite parking.

If you, or anyone you know would like help with MS related treatment and exercise, scroll down to book an appointment.

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