Multiple Sclerosis

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition which affects around 100,000 people in the UK.  Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20-40, but it can affect younger and older people too.  Almost three times as many women have MS as men.

MS happens because of damage to the nerve fibres in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord).  Nerves enable the brain to communicate with the body; they are coated with a substance called myelin that helps messages to be relayed quickly and smoothly along them.  When someone has MS their immune system mistakes myelin for a foreign body and attacks it causing it to be stripped partially or completely from the nerves.  This causes the messages that travel along the nerves to be slowed down, distorted or lost altogether.  The damage to the myelin is accrued over time and this is what causes the accumulation of disability in people with MS.

No one really knows what the exact cause of MS is.  There are a lot of theories but most experts agree that it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors.   Research into the different theories of what causes MS is on-going.


Symptoms of MS

Symptoms can occur in any part of the body and affect each person differently.  Most people will develop a few of the symptoms, but are unlikely to develop all of them.  The way the symptoms develop is unpredictable with some people’s symptoms becoming steadily worse (progressive MS) and some people’s symptoms coming and going (relapsing remitting MS).

•Poor vision
•Difficulty walking
•Balance problems
•Sensory changes
•Spasms and stiffness
•Cognitive problems
•Mental health problems
•Problems with speech and swallowing
•Reduced bladder and bowel function


Treatment of MS

It is important that people have a neurologist and an MS Nurse overseeing the treatment and management of their MS.  There is no cure but there are a number of ways to treat MS and its symptoms. 

Drugs  - disease modifying drugs that can help reduce the frequency of relapses and slow the progress of MS.  Steroids can be given to help speed up recovery from a relapse.  A number of drugs are available to help with symptoms such as pain, fatigue, bladder problems and spasticity.

Therapy – traditional therapies such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and psychology can all help to treat MS.

Complimentary therapies – there is little clinical evidence for many of the complimentary therapies however many people find them beneficial.  They can include treatments such as acupuncture, tai chi, reflexology, massage, shiatsu, aromatherapy and herbal medicine.

Exercise – this is important to help keep the body working at its full potential.  It can help maintain mobility, improve muscle strength, reduce spasticity and can even help to improve emotional wellbeing and mood.


How can a neurological physiotherapist help with MS?

•Advice and support
•Referral to other professionals
•Improve balance and reduce falls
•Teach how to get up if someone does fall
•Reduce spasticity (stiff, high toned muscles)
•Problem solve difficulties with day-to-day tasks
•Exercise programmes for fitness and strengthening
•Teach carers about the best way to move and handle you
•Exercises to strengthen muscles, stretch and maintain flexibility


Physiotherapy is very effective in treating some of the symptoms associated with MS and can be helpful at any stage in the disease process.  Neurological physiotherapists have specialised training and experience in treating people with neurological problems such as MS.

I have lots of experience in treating people with MS and have successfully helped people to regain independence and mobility.  I work with clients to achieve their own personal goals.  I can provide a comprehensive exercise programme for people to help them to maintain their fitness and strength and am very keen to try to help people to return to exercise that they enjoy and is meaningful to them.  

If you would like to know more, or think that I might be able to help you or a relative with any neurological condition please contact me.