Tips for Managing MS Symptoms
There is a plethora of symptoms to worry about when you have multiple sclerosis, some of them easier to manage than others. Let's look at some of the common symptoms of MS and the treatment options available for each.
What Can Help My Fatigue?
Fatigue and MS go hand in hand – it is easily the most common symptom, affecting approximately 80 percent of MS patients. Fatigue can keep you from functioning well at home and work.
Fortunately, there are ways to manage MS-related fatigue:
- Regular exercise. Simple stretching exercises, yoga poses, low-intensity exercise or walking around can instantly help boost your energy levels. Just be careful not to overdo it.
- Consistent sleep times. Incorporating a sleeping routine is essential to combat your fatigue. If you want to get eight hours of well-rested sleep, you can start by aiming for a bed-time around 8 PM or 9 PM.
- Eating a healthy diet. A diet that is filled with convenient unhealthy snacks or meals isn't helping your fatigue. Instead of grabbing a sugary snack, grab a handful of nuts instead.
- Conserving energy for things important to you. Focus on what you need to get done today and don't be afraid to put other things off. Exhausting yourself will only lead to more fatigue.
What Are My Options for Walking Difficulties?
Many factors can cause problems with gait, including weakness, loss of equilibrium, sensory deficit, and spasticity. Some options you can try to help with your walking difficulties are:
- Physical therapy. A physical therapist will first assess you and evaluate where your strengths and weakness are. They will create a plan to help you accomplish goals with aerobic exercises, strength training, and balance, stretching and flexibility exercises you can do at home or in your physical therapist's office.
- Assistive technology. Assistive therapy can include the use of wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches and more. These assistive devices are here to help you save energy and help you get around the house.
How Can I Help Reduce Spasticity?
Spasticity associated with MS can refer to stiffness in the joints and various involuntary muscle spasms, most commonly in the legs. Interventions include:
- Physical therapy. A physical therapist will provide a stretching routine within the first few visits. The reasons why your physical therapist recommends stretching is because it helps to lengthen the muscles. This will help decrease spasticity.
- Regular exercise. Just like regular exercise combats fatigue, it can also help to lessen spasticity. Start with low-impact exercises like yoga or walking before attempting activities like lifting weights.
- Medications. If physical therapy doesn't help or isn't as effective, your doctor may prescribe you medication that is known to reduce spasticity in MS. Medications include Baclofen, Valium, Zanaflex and other anti-seizure drugs.
What Can Combat MS Weakness?
Generalized weakness is the result of muscles that are not being used. This occurs either by the deconditioning of them or damage to the nerves responsible for stimulating the muscles. Interventions include:
- Rehabilitation. The goal of rehabilitation for MS is to help improve and maintain body functions. A rehabilitation team's approach focuses on problems with mobility, weakness, balance and coordination issues and will develop a program to help with MS weakness.
- Medication. Your doctor may prescribe medications to help with weakness. A common drug that helps with MS weakness is potassium channel blockers (Ampyra).
Is There a Solution to My MS Bladder Problems?
Bladder incontinence and related problems can be embarrassing and troubling for people with multiple sclerosis. Not only can it affect one's overall quality of life, but it can also affect them psychologically and socially.
As many as 80 percent of all patients with MS experience bladder problems like urinary urgency, incontinence, and hesitancy in urination.
If you experience MS-related bladder problems, there are a few ways to address the situation:
- Bladder controlling medications. Medications prescribed for bladder dysfunction are quite effective and may help to relieve symptoms entirely. For example, Oxybutynin is one option and is usually taken one to three times daily.
- Catheterization. Another tool that may help your MS bladder symptoms is an intermittent catheterization. Catheterization helps to eliminate urine from the bladder through a catheter on a regular basis.
- Dietary management. Many types of food and drinks can act as a diuretic which causes you to visit the bathroom more often. You can identify your triggers by creating a bladder journal and which in-turn can help you to avoid those particular foods.