What is MS?
MS is the most common acquired chronic neurological disease affecting young adults, often diagnosed between the ages of 20 to 40 and, in Australia, it affects three times more women than men.
Multiple Sclerosis is the result of damage to myelin, a protective fatty sheath surrounding nerve fibres of the central nervous system. Myelin is responsible for protecting and insulating nerves in order for messages to be carried to parts of the body.
MS is an autoimmune disease, meaning the bodies immune system attacks the myelin sheath, breaking it down. This process is called demyelination. When myelin breaks down parts of the nerve become exposed and subsequently scar.
The result of damaged myelin is an interference of messages between the central nervous system and the body.
Common signs and symptoms of MS include:
How can exercise help?
Many symptoms caused by MS can be reduced or alleviated with regular exercise. We already know that exercise is important for everyone, as it helps to strengthen, improve balance and increase cardiovascular health. This is no different for those with MS.
Exercise is a great way to target MS related fatigue; exercise significantly helps to improved balance of difficulties with coordination. We understand that exercise also helps to improve spasticity, altered muscle tone and weakness. Regular exercise is also a great mood stabiliser and helps to improve parts in the brain associated with memory, concentration and decision-making.
Before you jump into exercise, its really important that exercise is discussed with your treating GP, just to make sure there are no considerations or factors that will come into play, such as medication. It is important that exercise is completed under the guidance of an exercise professional in a safe environment. This is particularly important if there are balance and muscle tone issues to manage.
The most important take-away message is that exercise can certainly help improve overall quality and quantity of life!
Although there is currently no cure for MS, regular structured exercise & medication can certainly help to improve function, control and independence.