Multiple Sclerosis, commonly referred to as MS, is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system begins to attack healthy tissue in the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Since symptoms can vary in location and severity, physical therapists focus on tailoring each treatment plan to the specific needs of the patient.
Physical therapy can help patients build strength, balance and coordination to increase their quality of life. MS patients commonly experience extreme joint stiffness, which can make it difficult to walk and perform other everyday activities. A physical therapist can help find ways around the stiffness, through exercises and through equipment designed to assist MS patients. It’s also common for MS patients to feel tired or like they’ve run out of energy; to help them combat this, physical therapists teach patients about:
- Energy management – getting tired can lead to unsteadiness and falls, so it’s important to learn how to conserve your energy.
- Staying cool – the heat can drain your energy faster, so taking cold showers or baths in the morning, at night, or before activity can help you stay energized.
- Pacing – instead of trying to practice all your exercises at once, spread out activities throughout the day to allow time for rest and recovery.
Physical therapists work with MS specialists to treat the whole patient. Our area is fortunate as Cone Health has a network of physical therapists, physicians and neurologists dedicated to providing exceptional care and educating the community about MS.
To learn more about what’s support that’s available in the Triad, visit the website of the Greater Carolinas chapter of the National MS Society at nationalmssociety.org/Chapters/NCT.
Kristen Unger is doctor of physical therapy at Cone Health Outpatient Rehab Center at Reidsville. She received her Bachelor of Science in human nutrition, foods and exercise, and a Master of Science in clinical exercise physiology/biomedical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2010 and 2011, respectively. She received her Doctor of Physical Therapy from Elon University in 2015. Kristen recently founded the Rockingham County Parkinson’s Disease support group.