Multiple sclerosis, often called MS, is a debilitating neurological disease that affects the central nervous system. The central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord. The lesions which develop as a result of MS can cause problems with muscle control and strained, vision, balance, feeling and thinking.
Multiple sclerosis causes a gradual destruction of the protective covering around the nerve cells called the myelin. Without myelin in the brain and spinal cord cannot communicate with the nerves in the rest of the body. This causes muscle weakness and the other symptoms which are common with MS. These patches of demyelinization are visible on MRI and are called lesions.
Multiple sclerosis is exhibited differently for each person. Some people will go through life with only minor problems while others become seriously disabled. However, for the most part, most people land somewhere in between. Rehabilitation of the disease multiple sclerosis will be determined upon the exhibition of symptoms and the progression of the disease.
Generally multiple sclerosis follows one of four different paths. In the first case, called relapsing-remitting, the symptoms will fade and return off and on for many years. In secondary progress of the disease will first follow a relapsing-remitting course and will then become progressive. In the disease course called primary progressive the disease is progressive from the very start of symptoms. And in the final course, called progressive relapsing, the symptoms will come and go but the nerve damage becomes steadily worse.
Whatever the symptoms are, the treatment and self-care goals are to maintain the quality of life and decrease the severity of the symptoms. While there is no cure for MS, it is often not fatal and responds well to rehabilitation.
Individuals who suffer from multiple sclerosis will have certain physical and cognitive challenges that can be helped through physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and cognitive retraining. While these therapies will not completely ameliorate the symptomatology they will help to decrease the negative impact these symptoms have on the lifestyle of the individual.
Physical therapy is designed to improve the ability to function and perform daily living activities, as well to improve the strength of muscles which aren’t affected to encourage compensation. Occupational therapy will help an individual learn or relearn how to perform daily living activities, especially those that involve the hands and arms for grooming, dressing and eating. An occupational therapist will help an individual to determine which assistive devices, if any, should be used to help perform these daily tasks.
Sometimes speech therapists are included in the rehabilitation team to help improve communication skills if multiple sclerosis symptoms are making speech difficult. The speech pathologist will give the individual and their family members exercises to do on a daily basis as well as evaluate the progress of the therapeutic intervention on a biweekly or weekly basis. In some cases cognitive retraining may be helpful to improve cognitive impairment that is caused by the lesions in the brain.
Researchers and physicians do not know the exact cause of multiple sclerosis but they theorize that it is the result of a problem with the immune system. Some recent research has found a genetic link but other risk factors include age, race, environmental climate and gender.
When researchers are able to more fully understand the reasons behind the development of multiple sclerosis and specific individuals they will be able to more effectively designed treatment protocols which may alleviate the symptoms entirely or even potentially, initiate a cure. If you have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis is important to begin a rehabilitation program as quickly as possible in order to slow the progression of the symptoms and improve your ability to perform daily living activities and maintain your lifestyle.
National Multiple Sclerosis Society: Rehabilitation
Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology: Rehabilitation Challenges in Multiple Sclerosis
Rusk Insitute of Rehabilitation Medicine: Multiple sclerosis Rehabilitation Care
Journal of Neurology, neurosurgery and Psychiatry with Practical Neurology: Symptomatic Management and Rehabiltiation in Multiple Sclerosis
Disability and Rehabilitation: Ambulatory Rehabiltiation in Multiple Sclerosis
Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago: Multiple Sclerosis
Weil Cornell Medical College: Multiple sclerosis Rehabilitation