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Multiple sclerosis (MS) can be thought of as a spectrum, where people move through different phases of the condition throughout their lives. Establishing which phase of MS you have will help your doctor to tailor your care to best suit you. The phases are:

  • Relapsing Remitting MS (RRMS)
  • Primary Progressive MS (PPMS)
  • and Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS).

SPMS is the phase in which disability and symptoms gradually worsen over time. It is often associated with issues around walking, balance, cognition, spasticity, mobility, vision, and bladder control. We have compiled a helpful list of five additional ways to help manage your SPMS symptoms:

1. Physiotherapy

It is common to experience walking difficulties or poor balance and coordination with SPMS. If your symptoms are affecting mobility and your independence, consider physiotherapy as a way to help with your day-to-day activities.

Exercise is a brilliant way to help MS symptoms. Physiotherapists can work with you to assess physical difficulties and provide advice on new ways of keeping fit, by adapting your exercises to treat and manage specific symptoms, like mobility, balance, stiffness, spasticity, posture, and fatigue.

You may be able to find a physiotherapist at your local hospital or GP surgery, MS Therapy Centre, or arrange for a private at-home visit. As a first step, it is important to speak to your healthcare team for guidance on physiotherapy.

2. Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation is said to reduce stress and bring calmness, which can be particularly useful for people who are managing MS symptoms. Studies have shown that meditation can help improve quality of life, stress, anxiety, depression, and various types of pain which are typically worse for those living with MS. To get the best results from meditation and mindfulness, practise it regularly, as it’s a skill that develops over time. There is a wide selection of apps and online videos – many of which are free – to get you started so you can find one that works for you.

3. Swimming or Aqua Aerobics

Exercising in water allows people living with MS to move in ways they may not usually be able to. Just being in the pool makes it easier to move, with the water reducing the weight exertion on joints by up to 90%.

If you find yourself experiencing muscle stiffness, swimming is a great way to get the much needed benefits of exercise. Despite being low impact, the water provides moderate resistance, while also supporting you as you move. Even a gentle swim provides a worthwhile full body workout.

4. Yoga/Pilates

Yoga and pilates have many benefits for those living with MS. As well as personal benefits, the varying low-impact movements, breathing techniques, relaxation, and meditation can help to reduce fatigue levels, improve strength and mobility, and may help with bowel and bladder function.

As a form of exercise, yoga and pilates have similar benefits to activities like swimming – improving balance, core strength, and flexibility. A few studies have shown that yoga and pilates may help to improve MS symptoms like fatigue, spasticity, mobility, and balance.

One of the best things about these exercises is that almost anyone can do them, even if you are not fully mobile. Regular stretching sessions could make a big difference to your MS symptoms and may even help to slow the build-up of disability in progressive phases of the disease.

To note, the management methods listed above have been found to be helpful by some people living with MS, but this does not constitute a medical recommendation and should not be taken as a substitute for advice or treatment of your condition as directed by your doctor. Please always follow the advice of your doctor and speak to your healthcare team before trying any of these.

UK | January 2022 | 157026