If you have multiple sclerosis, or MS, one of your biggest fears is likely to be the physical toll the illness may take on your body. While there currently is no cure for MS, a number of treatments exist that can help ease symptoms and delay further progression. In addition, there are a number of things you can do to protect against mobility issues.
While most of the research into the impact of MS on the body is still in its infancy, there is quite a bit of information available on how to prevent, manage and treat the condition.
Mobility Issues in MS
Even after my father, mother and sisters in their forties all developed MS, we’ve never slept so poorly.Linda Keith, PhD, professor of clinical science at Harvard Medical School
Ms Keith is highly qualified, in addition to her professorship at Harvard Medical School, she is also a research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and founding professor of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
I remember my father walking across the lawn in Balch Springs, California to try to sleep. He said to himself, ‘Is this the worst part of this?’ And he’s been fine ever since.Linda Heith PhD
In general, people with MS who sleep poorly report trouble concentrating, saying things fluently and recalling memories, according to The Multiple Sclerosis Society.
But again, the impact of MS on the nervous system and the muscles is still being uncovered, says Keith.
The need for good Sleep
One way to support sleep quality is by sticking with your normal sleep patterns, trying to get a full night’s rest at least 3–4 nights/week, and if you experience daytime sleepiness or moodiness, getting more quality sleep in the middle of the day can also help you feel better.
To take a look at why MS can impact sleep, it’s important to consider the immune system’s role in sleep, explains Michael Whitworth, PhD, chief of neurodevelopmental disorders at the Center for Sleep at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and lecturer at the University of Texas in Houston.
High temperatures and inflammation from the immune system can negatively impact glucose levels in your body, and MS can be particularly notorious for manipulating those systems.
Glucose is the sugar that comes from foods and is involved in regulating your energy levels. “When the immune system is ramped up, it’s a major driver in the brain and body in terms of how they control us,” says Whitworth.
Glucose control is upset in MS and there’s a high likelihood with this inflammation, that it will effect glucose control and affect sleep through glucocorticoids, anti-inflammatory chemicals released in response to the immune system.Michael Whitworth, PhD
One way to rebalance this system is to get more sleep overall, and systems in the brain (the thalamus and hypothalamus in particular) appear to play a role, he notes: “Too little sleep, and the brain produces less of these chemicals, in particular beta-adrenoceptors, which receive the rest. needed to operate. This means that they’re not firing well, and the problem is worse, both generally.’ and in Multiple Sclerosis specifically.
Here are some common issues athletes can help to solve.
Avoiding gruelling workouts can be difficult enough without also taking on more risk of having your body move in ways you’re not prepared for. James Brayner, MS, co-founder of one of the first sprain recovery clinics, often posts videos and images of athletes doing functional training exercises to help demonstrate that improving mobility is not being minimal or avoiding risk, but rather restoration.
3 Simple Fixes All Beginners Can Make
Fix 1: Warm up at the gym
Most people only do static stretches before a workout, but as Lane Konitz, MS, certified strength and conditioning specialist indicates, static stretching only works for a certain length of time. At the time you do your pre-workout stretching, you’re already warm, so now you have to add more warmth to your movement.
Here are some real-world examples,” Konitz says.
- Before every workout, stretch the muscles in your legs, back and arms to prepare for moving during your workout.
- Commit to doing at least one dynamic warmup with dynamic positioning (e.g., back-and-forth lunge, kneeling lunge, lateral step-backs, side-to-side hip hops, sideways steps, etc.). These movements activate all of the muscles in your body and warm your tissue.
Fix 2: Warm up without lifting weights
Sometimes I hear people only do a very specific mobility drill with weights before a lifting session, in order to ‘starve’ their muscles of their ability to move.Britt Aparo, MS, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of New Territory Fitness.
Therefore, by limiting the load from lifting, you ensure your body is primed for movement and injury prevention by also limiting the load of the exercise.
Force your joints to work at their full range of motion and stretch to the ground to address your mobility issues.
Fix 3: Use dynamic lunge drills
Incorporating dynamic lunge drills is a great way to prime your body for getting into a lunge position, thus taking pressure off of your joints in a safer manner.
- Lunges are the foundation for powerful running and sprinting. They are the foundation for lifting heavy and throwing heavy things, too.
- Fixing your form and triggering the proper lunge is how you elevate your running and strength game.
Check out “Workout Routines” in the MyFitnessPal app to discover and log workouts or build your own with exercises that fit your goals.
Here, two experts take a look at how to safeguard against limitations caused by MS and why it’s important to stay active.
Mobility Issues with Musculoskeletal System Limitations
Any kind of muscle or joint weakness can impact your quality of life and worsen your mobility issues, says Darrin Prague, MS, certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of D Carr Movement & Assessment in Glendale, California. MS can cause damage to the spinal cord and surrounding tissue, which can impair motor function.
Difficult or painful movement in those affected by MS can be caused by weakness in the muscles and joints, particularly those that stabilize and flex the spine, explains Prague. Limitations in muscle strength and mobility can cause difficulty in standing, tipping or falling, and, walking or reaching up to get things off of the floor.
Limitations might also be noticed in activities that rely on balance and proprioception such as skiing, driving a car or instructing your children in the kitchen, says Don Henry, MS, a certified strength and conditioning specialist.
For example, if you lose the sensation in your legs on uneven terrain or don’t feel the pressure of the floor on your legs when using a walking stroller, that’s a symptom of weakness in your extremities, explains Henry.
What ultimately matters are the schemas that you use to identify movement patterns, though. “If you’re unable to perform an activity due to muscular weakness, as opposed to poor balance or coordination, that’s a different story,” says Henry. It’s definitely worth trying some of the suggested strategies for muscle strength and mobility issues, he adds.
Since any muscle or joint weakness can affect your quality of life in terms of how much you enjoy the things to do with your family and friends, it’s essential to assess your muscles regularly, Henry says. For some, this may mean visiting a professional and paying a visit to the strength and conditioning specialist.
But for those with less severe cases of MS or osteoarthritis or fewer mobility issues, it could mean just taking a few walking or tennis lessons weekly.
Good bacteria in the gut controls many aspects of your health, including how you feel. Many of us carry a certain type of bacteria in our guts, known as Lactobacilli, that is important for managing inflammation and avoiding disease in the long run, says Henry. The bacteria still thrive even if you do not have an active gut, and performing certain strategies for enhancing hormone production and maintaining healthy digestion can keep these beneficial bacteria happy.
In fact, just replenishing the number of good bacteria in your gut can aid in emptying out toxins from your digestive system and improving digestion will, in turn, lessen any mobility issues.