If you have multiple sclerosis (MS), exercise can help retain flexibility and balance, promote cardiovascular fitness and a sense of well-being, and prevent complications from inactivity. Exercise also helps regulate appetite, bowel movements and sleep patterns.
Jogging, walking and aerobic exercises are helpful when strength and coordination are not affected. Stationary bicycle riding may be more practical if walking or balance is impaired. Swimming is helpful for stretching and cardiovascular fitness. Yoga and Tai Chi are most useful for stretching and promoting a sense of well-being. Your physical and occupational therapists will assist you in selecting the best exercise program for you to follow.
Although stress cannot be totally eliminated from our lives, we can learn to manage it more effectively. Any reduction in stress will be associated with an improved sense of well-being and increased energy. A psychologist or social worker may be helpful in developing a stress management program that is tailored to your needs. The following are some useful stress reduction techniques:
Good nutrition maximizes your energy, general sense of well-being and healing capacities. A dietary routine also contributes to regular bowel habits. Although no specific diet has been demonstrated to conclusively improve the natural history of MS, most people do report an improved sense of well-being when following a carefully planned diet. Several published diets are healthful and easy to follow. Others are more restrictive and less practical.
Unless there is a specific vitamin deficiency found by your doctor there is no scientific proof that supplementary doses of vitamins or minerals, alone or in combination, favorably affect the course of the disease. Be careful not to take excessive doses of vitamin B6 because excessive doses of this vitamin can produce sensory symptoms similar to those seen in MS. High doses of vitamin A and D are toxic.
These fatty acids have been reported to be deficient in MS patients. There is an unconfirmed suggestion that supplementary feeding of these fatty acids may slightly reduce the frequency of MS attacks. These fatty acids are contained in sunflower seed oil and primrose oil. The former is much cheaper and readily available in grocery stores. Two tablespoons of sunflower seed oil each day will provide you with these fatty acids and give you the added benefit of a laxative.
If you have problems with mobility, muscle contractures or are confined to a wheelchair, you should check your skin regularly for sores, pressure spots, infections and abrasions. Regular skin care will minimize the chances of skin breakdown and help you to avoid complications such as a decubitus ulcer. Be sure to check the pressure points on your body including your heels, knees, hips, buttocks and elbows. Remember to protect against skin cancer by wearing sunscreen and protective clothing when outdoors, whether it is sunny or not. Get familiar with your skin and examine it frequently.
Vitamin C helps to acidify the urine and prevent the growth of bacteria. Orange juice or vitamin C tablets are both useful. Cranberry juice also will acidify the urine and is available as a sugar free juice for those who count calories. If you develop new urinary frequency, burning when you urinate or have difficulty passing your urine, you should call your doctor and be seen for the possibility of a urinary tract infection.
There has traditionally been a concern that immunizations could worsen MS by stimulating the immune system. With the exception of transient worsening associated with fever or rare neurological complications known to be associated with certain vaccines, there is no convincing evidence that immunizations make MS patients worse. If immunizations are recommended by a doctor, they can probably be undertaken safely. In general, immunizations should be delayed if the person is experiencing an acute MS attack. However, in some circumstances, such as when urgent vaccinations for tetanus or rabies are required, immunizations should be given immediately. If questions arise, you should discuss them further with your neurologist.
Physical Therapy (PT) focuses on ways to preserve or improve safety and independence with functional mobility. This may be accomplished through a variety of approaches including:
The following are examples of PT therapeutic strategies that help everyday management of mobility-related symptoms.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.