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10 min. walk from Boston Manor Tube Station.
15 min. walk from Northfields Tube Station.
E8, E3, E2, 207, 607, 83
Every year in the UK, approximately 5,000 people are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Thought to currently impact around 100,000 people in the UK, multiple sclerosis is a lifelong condition that affects a person's brain and spinal cord.
Although there is no cure for this long-lasting autoimmune disease — which can cause serious declines in cognition, mobility, and sensation — interventions like physiotherapy can make a major difference in the quality of life for those with MS.
The central nervous system (CNS) — made up of the brain and spinal cord — is responsible for generating thoughts, directing the body's movements, and sensing the outside world. To accomplish all this, the CNS transmits messages via nerves which are covered in a special protective sheath called myelin.
In MS, the body's immune system attacks these myelin sheaths — which in turn severely impacts our ability to transmit nerve signals throughout the body and regulate our thoughts, control our movements, and detect feelings and sensations.
Researchers aren't sure what causes multiple sclerosis, though it's more common in women than in men. Some studies have shown that MS is linked to low levels of Vitamin D in the body, while other studies have suggested that MS can be triggered by viruses and bacterial infections in the body.
In addition, MS might be linked to lifestyle trends like obesity and smoking cigarettes. As a whole, researchers have not determined a single cause for multiple sclerosis.
In many cases, people experience signs of MS for years without getting a formal diagnosis; in fact, MS is usually diagnosed in people's thirties, forties or fifties despite existing for years, undetected. A neurologist diagnoses MS through blood tests and MRI's. From there, it will be determined which form of MS you have:
Almost 85% of MS patients have what's called relapsing multiple sclerosis, which means that they will experience periods of remission during which symptoms improve significantly. The series of remission will then be followed by a relapse, in which symptoms return — sometimes worse than before.
Sometimes, relapsing MS turns into secondary progressive MS over time, meaning that your symptoms will continue to worsen without any intervals of remission.
For about 10 to 15% of patients, symptoms get progressively worse over time beginning at the initial diagnosis. Primary progressive MS is generally diagnosed in patients who are in their 40s and 50s.
As a result of the disruption of nerve signals throughout the body, people with MS can suffer a range of symptoms. Signs of MS will vary based on which nerve fibres have been damaged, so MS looks different for everyone. With that in mind, people with multiple sclerosis often experience the following symptoms:
• Cognitive changes like difficulty focusing and learning new things
• Numbness, tingling, or pins and needles sensations
• Muscle pain, stiffness, and weakness
• Muscle spasms and contracture
• Clumsiness and loss of coordination
• Bladder and bowel control issues
• Mood changes like depression and anxiety
• Dizziness and loss of balance
• Eye problems
Although there is no known cure for MS, there are several therapies that can make a huge difference in the quality of life for people with MS.
For example, certain medications are thought to help slow the progression of the disease. Making dietary and lifestyle changes can support overall health and well-being. Talking to a psychologist can help you cope with the emotional and mood-related issues of MS. And choosing a professional physiotherapist can help MS patients manage the mobility, balance, and muscle problems associated with MS.
According to the MS Society, a physiotherapist is a vital part of every MS patient's health and wellness routine. Studies have shown that MS patients who receive treatment from a physiotherapist can experience marked improvements in muscle strength and walking ability — in addition to a reduction in pain and discomfort from issues like muscle contracture.
During a relapse period, physiotherapy can be a powerful tool for preventing symptoms from worsening. And even in remission stages, physiotherapy can help keep MS patients strong and better-equipped to deal with upcoming challenges.
Physiotherapists use a variety of tools and techniques to ease the debilitating symptoms of MS. Though it depends on your needs, a physiotherapist might help you with the following:
• Assess your balance, gait, and muscle strength to come up with a personalised plan that works best for you
• Help you adapt your movements and activities of daily life to prevent muscle strain and fatigue
• Teach you stretches to do at home to reduce symptoms of muscle pain and spasms
• Guide you through passive range of motion and stretching in the office to help relax your muscles
• Guide you through exercises that keep your muscles strong and balanced
• Help you use any specialised equipment — like wheelchairs or walkers
• Guide you on how to improve your gait (the way you walk)
• Help you work on your balance through core strengthening exercises
When you go see a physiotherapist for multiple sclerosis, you can probably expect your first visit to go something like this:
Before you receive any treatment for your physiotherapist, they will first need to get an impression of your baseline abilities. They will want to see how you walk, assess your balance, check your range of motion and flexibility, and assess your coordination.
It's important to discuss your treatment goals with your physiotherapist. What do you hope to accomplish with physiotherapy? How much assistance are you receiving from friends and family? What outcomes can you expect?
During a physiotherapy session, your practitioner will gently guide you through a series of stretches and exercises — and show you what to work on at home.
Each physiotherapy session will be tailored to your specific needs, as will the frequency of your sessions. For example, if you have primary progressive multiple sclerosis, it's pivotal to have frequent sessions to keep up with progressively worsening symptoms.
On the other hand, those with relapsing MS may only need infrequent sessions during remission — then more frequent sessions during a relapse. When and if you relapse, your physiotherapist will compare you to your initial baseline evaluation to get a better idea of what kind of help you need.
Though there is currently no cure for MS, a professional physiotherapist can help you cope with the many symptoms — pain, loss of balance, muscle spasms — that impact people with MS. In addition, they can help you maintain mobility and improve your quality of life.
If you're ready to speak to a professional physiotherapist in London, please reach out to us at CK Physio today.