Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. MS is diagnosed by ruling out other potential diseases and health complications. To diagnose MS, a physician may recommend blood tests or magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs). In some cases, evoked potential tests and a spinal tap may also be needed.
If you or a loved one has MS, these tips for managing MS can help improve a person’s overall quality of life.
Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis
Multiple sclerosis, commonly referred to as MS, is a disease affecting the central nervous system and brain. Coping with an MS diagnosis can be difficult, as MS can be a potentially disabling disease, depending on its severity. MS affects one’s daily life in numerous ways because the immune system attacks the protective layer known as myelin that covers the nerve fibers.
MS causes communication complications between your brain and body. Over time, MS can lead to severe deterioration and permanent damage to the nerves. While there is no cure for MS, many innovative treatments and procedures can help manage symptoms, minimize the disease’s severity and help patients recover from flare-ups.
Common Symptoms of MS
While MS symptoms can vary at any age, most patients will develop their first symptoms between the ages of 20 and 40. Many patients also experience flare-ups and periods of relief, meaning symptoms may worsen for a period before improving. MS symptoms may also change over time, with some side effects repeating and others only occurring once or twice. Some of the most common MS symptoms include:
- Pain and discomfort: One most common symptom of MS is chronic pain, discomfort and involuntary muscle spasms resulting from nerve demyelination. The type of pain and discomfort a person feels may vary depending on the cause, including chronic and acute neuropathic pain. Many patients may also experience muscle stiffness and spasms.
- Numbness and tingling: Because MS affects the spinal cord and brain, the sensory nerves in the spinal cord may experience demyelination, causing a loss of sensation and negatively impacting the ability to walk. Many patients may also experience sensations of tingling, numbness and even burning. Tingling and numbness are often early warning signs of MS, commonly affecting the legs, arms, fingers and face.
- Fatigue: General fatigue and weakness are common to MS. In many cases, fatigue often relates to inflammation or lesions in the brain and can also develop due to muscle atrophy and nerve demyelination. As nerves within the spinal column deteriorate, many patients may experience chronic fatigue. General weakness is often first noticeable in the legs.
- Vision problems: Many people with MS will also likely develop vision problems because inflammation affects optic nerves and can hinder vision. Common vision complications include limited vision and blurred vision. Three of the most common vision complications with MS include nystagmus, diplopia and optic neuritis.
- Cognitive problems: Unfortunately, most patients with MS will also experience some form of cognitive dysfunction, including memory problems, difficulty concentrating and trouble staying organized. Some people may also notice a shortened attention span, depression and other emotional health problems as well as cognitive issues.
- Dizziness: Many people with MS also experience dizziness or coordination and balance problems that often decrease mobility and range of motion. In some cases, balance problems may negatively impact a person’s ability to walk. Often, patients may periodically deal with dizziness, vertigo and lightheadedness. These symptoms often worsen when a person stands up.
How MS Affects the Brain
Approximately 2.8 million people live with MS around the world. MS typically affects highly myelinated portions of the brain, which are known as white matter. Still, MS may also affect other regions closer to the brain, known as cortical grey matter. Cognitive impairment is often caused by damage to both the grey and white matter structures. Damage to various regions of the brain can also cause complications with various cognitive skills.
It is also important to understand how MS affects the nervous system and entire body. With MS, the body’s immune cells attack the healthy nerve tissue, which can inhibit your body’s ability to respond healthily. While the cause of MS is unknown, understanding how the disease affects your body and what treatments are available are both important steps to managing symptoms.
The Impact of MS on Daily Life
MS can negatively impact a person’s ability to perform daily activities and inhibit their life. One research study found that approximately 42% of participants felt their ability to perform daily activities has worsened within the last two years. Additionally, more than 50% of people reported limitations in daily activities due to physical weakness, fatigue and other symptoms.
5 Tips for Coping With MS
MS can be a difficult condition that causes many unpredictable side effects and complications. Coping with MS pain can help patients learn how to manage uncomfortable symptoms, such as balance disorders, weakness or numbness. Below are five tips for treating MS and how to improve mobility and overall quality of life:
1. Learn More About MS Symptoms and Treatments
One of the first and most important steps to managing MS symptoms is to learn more about the disease and the side effects you may expect. While symptoms vary from person to person, it can be beneficial to learn some of the most common ones. Additionally, it is also important to consider what triggers may cause or worsen pain or uncomfortable side effects. Effective MS treatments can also minimize symptoms and improve a patient’s overall quality of life.
2. Follow a Healthy Diet and Exercise Program
Diet and exercise are important aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Research has found several individual dietary components that show potential for significant impact on MS. While everyone can benefit from a healthy diet and exercise, it can be especially beneficial for people with chronic diseases, such as multiple sclerosis.
While there is no special diet and exercise program specifically for MS, many patients notice improvements if they follow a diet low in fat and high in fiber and essential vitamins. Proper diet and light exercise can support healthy bowel and bladder function and maximize your overall energy. Improved cardiovascular fitness and strength can also minimize symptom severity.
3. Ensure You Get Adequate Rest
Many people with MS also experience sleep disruptions and problems, most commonly including insomnia. In more severe cases, patients may even experience leg spasms that worsen at night or when sleeping. Many people with MS experience sleep complications, with research showing 38% of MS patients experiencing poor sleep, 18% experiencing daytime tiredness and 38% experiencing fatigue.
If you are experiencing difficulty sleeping, you may want to consider establishing a nighttime routine for sleep and try going to bed around the same time each night. Many patients also experience success with meditation or mindfulness practices to fall asleep. You can also ask your physician for any advice or tips on how to get a better night’s sleep.
4. Avoid MS Triggers
An MS trigger is anything that may cause or worsen the severity of various MS symptoms. Learning these personal triggers and how to avoid them can minimize symptoms and even lower the risk of bringing on an uncomfortable MS flare-up. In addition to stress, one of the most common triggers for those with MS is overheating. It is important to learn general MS triggers and pay attention to ones that may be unique to you.
5. Organize Your Environment
An MS flare-up can cause numerous uncomfortable symptoms and make daily activities difficult, including simply navigating your home. If you have noticed a specific part of your home has become more difficult to navigate or walk freely through, you may want to consider changing your environment to better fit your mobility. For example, some patients may declutter a hallway or certain area of their house to allow easier movement. Organizing your environment can reduce injury risk and maximize your mobility.
Exhausted the Traditional Medical Model? Try Upper Cervical Chiropractic Methods!
The National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA) is a specialized and innovative form of upper cervical care. NUCCA is a painless spinal procedure that can alleviate pressure and stress from the nervous system and restore the pelvis, skull and spine back to their proper positions. When the pressure is taken off the nerves, a NUCCA treatment allows the body to return to its healthy state.
To start with multiple sclerosis treatment, contact us online today or call (914) 686-6200.