Multiple sclerosis is a complex neurological disease that affects a person’s mobility, functioning in daily activities, self-esteem, social roles and employment. Patients diagnosed with MS can experience a variety of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. Few of the symptoms are: difficultly with walking or balancing, fatigue, thinking ability, spasticity, speech or swallowing problems, bladder control, tremors and depression.
What is Rehabilitation?
Rehabilitation (or rehab) focuses on improving and maintaining all levels of function that would have been changed or lost. The objective of rehabilitation is always to maximize independence and participation in everyday life.
The foundation of an effective rehabilitation program is the team, which includes the person with MS and the family, who work closely with experts from a number of specialized disciplines. The rehabilitation team creates a plan, which includes short and long-term goals that meets the needs of the person with MS, taking into account his/ her priorities, lifestyle and desires.
A few of the Rehabilitation therapies used in treating MS are:
- Physical therapy (PT): Physiotherapists will evaluate the physical condition of the patient and provide instructions in exercises that help with strengthening, balance, gait, range of motion, reducing fatigue, bladder retraining and pain management. They teach the patient and their caregivers various ways to help relieve spasms and tremors. They also advice on orthopedic devices, cooling products or mobility equipment like canes or wheelchairs, and teach the proper method to use such equipment.
- Speech therapy: Multiple sclerosis can cause problems with speech and swallowing. Speech-language pathologists are specially trained to evaluate and focus on strategies for improvement.
- Occupational therapy (OT): Occupational therapists help with everyday activities to increase independence, productivity and safety. They can assist in modifying daily tasks, using adaptive equipment, and recommend adaptions in the home and work environment to compensate for impairments in cognitive, physical, sensation and vision. While a PT often works on building strength and flexibility, the OT works on finding easier ways of doing things by finding ways around hindrances.
- Cognitive rehabilitation: The Neuropsychologist is specially trained to evaluate cognitive problems commonly affected by MS, involving the ability to think, reason, concentrate, organize, and remember. The specialist can recommend practical, solution-oriented strategies to manage and compensate for cognitive changes and suggest the appropriate restorative interventions.
- Vocational rehabilitation: Vocational Rehabilitation Specialists focus on providing work related guidance, counselling and recommending assistive or adaptive technologies to increase the ability to work and maintain employment.
To gain the most benefit from rehabilitative therapy, patients and their family must take an active role in following the treatment plan prescribed and guided by the Rehabilitation team.
MS International Federation
National MS Society
American Academy of Neurology