Some of the ways physiotherapy can help the multiple sclerosis patient are by:
• Improving balance and coordination
• Managing pain and muscle spasms
• Improving range-of-motion in arms and legs
• Assessing and improving gait
• Maintaining and/or restoring strength to weak muscles
• Decreasing spasticity (muscle stiffness)
During the acute stage of the illness, treatment may be in a hospital or nursing facility. Later, as the symptoms become manageable the patient may be treated in an outpatient clinic or at home. Treatment for multiple sclerosis will be tailored to the symptoms that are present. For pain and muscle spasm, we may use cold packs or massage. Cold is sometimes preferred over heat as heat tends to aggravate MS symptoms in some patients. Gentle massage helps to relax the muscles and reduce pain and spasticity.
Range-of-motion and stretching exercises are indicated. Physiotherapy addresses posture, balance and coordination issues in the MS patient through a number of exercises and activities. Strengthening exercises as well as education in proper posture during standing, walking, lying and sitting is part of the program. For patients who cannot walk, we will recommend and have them fitted with a wheelchair or other mobility aid. Some patients may have difficulty getting in and out of bed.Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating illness for which there is no cure. However, with medical attention and physiotherapy, sufferers may be able to work and function reasonably well.