Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is defined as a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system (CNS), which results in sclerotic lesions in the brain that gradually lead to motor and sensory deficits. Overactive immune cells cause inflammation, resulting in loss of myelin in the brain and spinal cord, called demyelination, and eventually causes axonal damage in these regions. Lesions and plaques in the brain tissue result, causing a multitude of symptoms limiting patients function, balance, gait, and strength.
Symptoms and signs of MS are extremely variable from patient to patient, and can be mild or severe, including:
-Muscle spasms resulting in pain
-Difficulty with balance
-Numbness and tingling
Multiple Sclerosis affects the nerve pathways between the brain and the spinal cord. These pathways control your ability to react to stimuli, such as when touching a hot pot, and the resulting reaction to pull your arm away quickly from such stimuli. The fatty covering around the nerves, myelin, is disrupted and does not allow the nerve signals to conduct properly causing any of the symptoms outlined above. The exact cause of Multiple Sclerosis is unknown – the breakdown of the myelin is not fully understood, but somehow the body’s own autoimmune response attacks this myelin sheath. A combination of environmental and genetic factors appears to be a possible cause.
Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis can be difficult because many of the factors mimic other diseases and are nonspecific. Between blood work, lab tests, a thorough history, and medical imaging (MRI/CT scans), these tests can help arrive to the conclusion of MS. A lumbar puncture or spinal tap, can help rule out other diseases, and MRI’s can help identify lesions or plaques on the brain.
Treatment and Exercises
Physical therapy for people with Multiple Sclerosis focuses on helping you return to the activities performed at home, work, and in the community. Your first physical therapy visit will consist of a initial examination to determine your impairments such as weakness, pain, loss of sensation, balance, or coordination, activities of daily living (ADL) limitations (such as walking, dressing, transfering in/out of your vehicle), and restrictions with recreational activities such as playing baseball, dancing, and enjoying social events. After this initial evaluation, our physical therapists develop a specific exercise program, in the clinic and for home (home exercise program), based on your limitations and goals.
Exercises to someone with early stages of MS include strengthening, balance training, stretching, and cardiovascular training using a treadmill, recumbent bike, or NUSTEP. The exercise programs we develop are based upon your individual ability and progressed depending upon your tolerance to each physical therapy session.
Another developing treatment has been the use of electrical stimulation, specifically the use of the Neubie machine from Neufit. Specialized Physical Therapy is the only facility in New Jersey with the Neubie, using it for treatment of Multiple Sclerosis and other orthopedic conditions. The Neubie uses a form of electrical stimulation to activate muscles and engage the nervous system with specific functional movements to get patients stronger and faster. In our experience, patients using the Neubie have seen improved strength, balance, and motor control with decreased pain and muscle spasms.
To get started today or request a free consultation, give us a call or email us here.