Overview of Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide range of potential symptoms, including problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation, or balance.

In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibres and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves.

Types of MS and stages

There are four types of MS:

  1. Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS)
  2. Relapse-remitting MS (RRMS)
  3. Primary progressive MS 
  4. Secondary progressive MS (SPMS)

Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

The symptoms of MS vary widely from person to person and can affect any part of the body.

  1. fatigue
  2. difficulty walking
  3. vision problems, such as blurred vision
  4. problems controlling the bladder
  5. numbness or tingling in different parts of the body
  6. muscle stiffness and spasms
  7. problems with balance and coordination
  8. problems with thinking, learning, and planning

Causes and Risk Factors

Scientists do not really know what causes MS, but risk factors include:

  1. Age: Most people receive a diagnosis between the ages of 20 and 40 years.
  2. Sex: Most forms of MS are twice as likely to affect women as men.
  3. Genetic factors: Susceptibility may pass down in the genes, but scientists believe an environmental trigger is also necessary for MS to develop, even in people with specific genetic features.
  4. Smoking: People who smoke appear to be more likely to develop MS. They also tend to have more lesions and brain shrinkage than non-smokers.
  5. Infections: Exposure to viruses, such as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) or mononucleosis, may increase a person’s risk of developing MS, but research has not shown a definite link. Other viruses that may play a role include human herpesvirus type 6 (HHV6) and mycoplasma pneumonia.
  6. Vitamin D deficiency: MS is more common among people who have less exposure to bright sunlight, which is necessary for the body to create vitamin D. Some experts think that low levels of vitamin D may affect the way the immune system works.
  7. Vitamin B12 deficiency: The body uses vitamin B when it produces myelin. A lack of this vitamin may increase the risk of neurological diseases such as MS.


There is no cure for MS, but treatment is available that can slow the progression of the disease, reduce the number and severity of relapses, and relieve symptoms.

Some people also use complementary and alternative therapies, but research does not always confirm the usefulness of these.

Treatment options include:

  1. Injectable medications
  2. Oral medications
  3. Infused medications

How Can a Physical Therapist Help?

Physiotherapy for people with MS focuses on helping them return to the roles performed at home, work, and in the community. Your first physiotherapy visit will consist of a complete examination to determine your impairments (ie, weakness, pain, loss of sensation, balance, or coordination), activity limitations (ie, daily activities that you are having difficulty with, such as walking, dressing, or getting into your vehicle), and participation restrictions (ie, an alteration to your normal activities, such as difficulty completing work and household tasks, caring for yourself or your family, or performing recreational and/or social activities). Following the examination, your physiotherapist will develop a specific exercise program for you based on your condition and goals, including a home exercise program and education on community-based exercise options.

  1. Exercise programs
  2. General strengthening
  3. Aquatic therapy
  4. Tai chi and yoga

PCA expert physiotherapists can explore many other variables that could be of tremendous help and prescribe treatment specific to your needs.

Call PCA for a consultation today on 0813 028 0496!

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