Multiple sclerosis is a disease which affects spinal cord and the brain. Approximately 400,000 individuals in the United States and two million people worldwide have multiple sclerosis
Aquatic exercise is encouraged by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) due to the low impact, cold temperature, and gravity-effect reducing properties of exercising in water. Patients who cannot stand or ambulate on ground are able to do so in water and thereby increase their flexibility. Additionally, there is the mental satisfaction and improved quality of life that should not be discounted. There are several testimonials online and in the pamphlets of patients with MS, who report the mental and physical gains they made through aquatic programs. The NMSS runs aquatic exercise programs across the country. Those patients interested are advised to contact their local chapter for further information.
Assistive technologies (ATs) include any item, piece of equipment, that is used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Commonly used ATs are canes, walkers, grab bars, tub benches, and wheelchairs.
AT devices specific to MS patients include:
1. Visual aids, which include an eye patch for diplopia, large print texts, magnifier glasses to enlarge texts. For those individuals who cannot read at all, audio taped books are an option.
2. Programs to aid patients with cognitive impairments in completing tasks. Programs, such as the Pocket Coach1, AbleLink Technologies, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO U.S.A, provide auditory queing about sequential steps.
3. Speech augmentation aids, which are useful for patients, cognitively capable of discourse, but have such severe vocal motor impairment that they cannot do more than a whisper. These aids are speech amplifiers.
MS patients often avoid exercise due to the increased body temperature generated by physical activity or to conserve their energy for other tasks. Limiting exercise activity can occasionally lead to greater weakness, fatigue and health risks. Aerobic activity results in significantly improved cardiovascular fitness for the exercise group compared to the non-exercise group. Skinfold thickness and triglyceride levels are significantly decreased.
MS patients with specific disorders such as contractures or motor deficits may require assistance from a physiatrist in planning a treatment program. The program should involve active and passive ROM exercises, specific muscle strengthening, ADL training, and active recreation in a structured program.