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Managing Mobility with Multiple Sclerosis

by Shannon, February 25, 2019

With more than 400,000 people in the United States coping with multiple sclerosis, this neurologic disease is associated with symptoms that affect major parts of the body. Many of these symptoms involve mobility. 

If you or a loved one is coping with a diagnosis of MS, you could be more at risk for falling. And, with falls, many individuals with MS experience major medical issues and disabilities associated with limited mobility.

A fall can be life-changing and can make your MS symptoms even more severe. That’s why we’ve decided to continue our MS series with information about how to manage mobility with MS. (Link to first MS article in series]

 

Understanding MS Symptoms

Understanding your MS symptoms can help you to identify why you are more at risk for falls. [Link to MS article 2] The primary culprit is the way that the disease progresses. MS causes damage to the myelin in the central nervous system, as well as the nerve fibers. This damage interferes with the transmission of signals between the spinal cord, the brain and other parts of your body.

As a result, the disruption can cause issues with mobility. For instance, common MS symptoms related to mobility include:

  • Weak limbs
  • Blurred vision
  • Tingling sensations
  • Unsteadiness
  • Fatigue
  • Partial or complete loss of vision
  • Electric-shock sensations in the body
  • Tremors
  • Slurred speech
  • Dizziness
  • Irritable bowels or challenges with bladder function

According to the National MS Society, these common symptoms can leave you more susceptible to falls. As we dive into the risk factors, know that we are also going to provide you with support and ways to help you minimize your risks.

Keep Reading to Learn More

 

Risk Factors That Attribute to Falls

As MS progresses, you may experience difficulty with walking. This is primarily because your muscles grow weaker and may result in foot drops, vaulting, hip hiking, toe dragging and even the need to swing a leg out to the side to gain your balance. 

In addition to weakness, spasticity within MS patients can lead to falls. Your muscle may feel more tight than usual and interfere with walking, especially when involuntary muscle spasms are present. Spasticity can also produce lower back pain and tightness in and around your joints.

Individuals with MS also struggle with a loss of balance, which leaves them more susceptible to falls. You may find yourself swaying at times when you least expect it, according to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.

If you are experiencing dizziness or vertigo, you may find yourself lightheaded and off balance. Numbness and sensory disturbances can also make it harder for you to be aware of the position of your body or even your feet as they relate to space.

Tremors, especially, cause individuals with MS to move back and forth unexpectedly, causing challenges with coordination and balance. In addition, fatigue, vision problems and even pain resulting from MS symptoms can make mobility a challenge.

 

Mobility Resources for MS Patients

While you are not alone as you cope with multiple sclerosis, you can still maintain your independence and mobility with assistive technology and devices that simplify your life and improve your quality of life. Mobility devices can significantly enhance the way you function so that you are more active and most importantly, safer.

When choosing the right equipment, it’s essential that you consult with your physician, occupational therapist or physical therapist to make sure you know how to use the equipment, but also to ensure the equipment is a good fit for you.

You may not know when it’s time to use a mobility device. That’s why the National MS Society has compiled a checklist for you – or your loved ones. A mobility device is typically necessary when you:

  • Experience frequent falls
  • Expend too much energy when walking
  • Use furniture or walls to assist you when walking
  • Avoid activities because you fear you may fall

Easily manage mobility and MS symptoms with any of the following devices:

  • Orthotics: These braces help to position your feet properly to eliminate the risk of toe dropping. Orthotics also provide more stability for your ankles, decrease fatigue and minimize your risk of falling.
  • Functional Electrical Stimulation: Also known as an FES, this wireless stimulator helps to activate the nerves on your calf to help you pick up your feet when walking.
  • Weighted Vests: A weighted vest can help you achieve better balance and stability. However, when opting for weighted vests to reduce your risk of falling, it’s essential that you find the proper fitting.
  • Hip Flexor Devices: MS often weakens your hip muscles. A hip flexor device is a lightweight aid that utilizes straps and elastic bands to decrease foot drags when walking.
  • Walking Sticks: You can gain a sporty look and better mobility with a walking stick as your primary aid. Opt for two walking poles – similar to ski poles – or one walking stick to help boost your posture and your balance.
  • Canes: When your legs feel weaker than usual, a cane can help support your body weight and improve your balance. When purchasing a cane, though, make sure it is properly sized so that it is safe for you to use.
  • Walkers: Increase your speed and improve your balance when managing your mobility with MS by using a rollator or walker. Some walkers – known as rollators feature two or four wheels with hand breaks and seats.
  • Scooters or Wheelchairs: You don’t have to miss out on your favorite activities when you can get there safely and conveniently in a wheelchair or scooter. By taking a seat and moving around in these devices, you can conserve your energy and ensure you are safe and sound while getting around.

 

The Care and the Support You Need…and Deserve

Whether you are newly diagnosed, in the midst of treatment or coping with daily living with multiple sclerosis, know that you are not alone. Both local and national agencies and organizations host support groups and offer resources that are valuable for patients and their loved ones.

You can also lean on the professional and compassionate caregivers from Care Indeed. Support and care are essential as you cope with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. Care Indeed professionals are highly trained to assist with mobility, hygiene, transportation and companionship regardless of your condition or disease. We offer local resources for our clients and their families to help you understand the level of care you need. In addition, our professional caregivers are available to help you with daily tasks to ease the transition when MS progresses.

Care Indeed is committed to providing you the support and in-home caregivers who understand your challenges and daily struggles at work and home. Learn more about how to get the support you need while living with Multiple Sclerosis today