A physical therapist works with a patient

Does Physical Therapy Benefit Multiple Sclerosis Patients?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a central nervous system disease that keeps the brain from communicating properly with the body. Myelin, the protective encasement around nerve fibers gets destroyed by the body’s own immune system—and eventually the actual nerves can be destroyed as well. MS can be disabling, causing numbness, vision loss, pain, and dizziness.

However, because the information from the nerves doesn’t get sent to the brain like it’s supposed to, it can make it difficult or impossible to walk, talk, coordinate movement, and even disrupt going to the bathroom. Symptoms differ from patient to patient, but since ultimately everything the body does is controlled or managed by nerves, MS can be extremely debilitating. 

There is no cure for MS, but researchers have been seeking answers for management and treatment. Physical therapy is one aspect of treatment that both doctors and patients have turned to for answers. While it doesn’t combat the disease itself, physical therapy can help with balance, strength, and elasticity of the muscles, which may help retain the abilities that remain.

Additionally, therapists can help patients learn new ways to accomplish old tasks, sometimes with the use of additional devices. For example, canes or crutches may be an option for someone experiencing difficulty walking by providing additional support. A physical therapist can help show patients how to use these and other devices most effectively. Aquatic (water) therapy and low-intensity exercises like yoga or tai-chi have also shown good results for patients with MS.

Last Updated: August 14, 2017

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