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MS patients in waiting room looking at iPad

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can be thought of as a scale, where people move through phases of the disease throughout their lives. Establishing which one of these phases of MS you have will allow your doctor to tailor your care to suit you best1. These phases are Relapsing Remitting MS (RRMS), Primary Progressive MS (PPMS) and Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS)2

SPMS is the phase where generally symptoms get worse over time, with or without relapses (temporary flare-ups or worsening of symptoms) or remissions (temporary lessening in the severity of symptoms). SPMS in specific brings certain challenging symptoms, such as fatigue, balance, cognitive problems, spasticity, and mobility, vision and bladder issues. We have compiled a helpful list of six other ways to help manage your SPMS symptoms, in addition to medication:

1. Physiotherapy

It is very common to experience walking difficulties or poor balance and coordination with SPMS2. If your symptoms are affecting mobility and independence, then try physiotherapy to help you with day-to-day activities3

Exercise is a brilliant way to alleviate your MS symptoms. Physiotherapists can provide advice on new ways of keeping fit adapted to your abilities and exercises to treat and manage specific symptoms, like difficulties with mobility, balance, stiffness, spasticity, posture and fatigue3, 4

You might be able to find a physiotherapist at your local hospital or GP surgery, community health centre or arrange for a private at home visit. For the best means of contacting a physiotherapist, speak to your doctor. 

2. Meditation/mindfulness

Meditation is a common way to reduce stress and bring focus. For people living with SPMS, practicing meditation and mindfulness can help with certain symptoms. Studies have shown that meditation can help improve quality of life, stress, anxiety, depression and various types of pain which are typically worse in those with MS5. To get the best results from meditation and mindfulness, you will need to practise it regularly, as it’s a skill that develops over time. There is a wide selection of apps and online videos you can use to help as a guide, so you can find one that works well for you.

3. Acupuncture 

Acupuncture is derived from ancient Chinese medicine that involves inserting fine needles into the body at certain sites for therapeutic or preventative purposes6 aiming to stimulate sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles. This results in the body producing natural substances, such as pain-relieving endorphins.

Two surveys in the US and Canada have found that pain, spasticity, and numbness or tingling frequently improved after acupuncture in people with MS. People living with SPMS saw an improvement in fatigue, depression, anxiety, and bowel or bladder function7

If you’d like to see if acupuncture benefits you, reach out to a member of your MS team or contact your local medical clinic. 

4. Cannabis 

A 2014 study found that that cannabis-based medicines, in pill or spray form, can help spasticity and spasms, lessen central pain, feelings of burning or numbness and may also lessen frequent urination in people living with MS8

As cannabis is a controlled drug, it is not readily available in many countries so check with your healthcare team to see if CBD is available to you. 

5. Homeopathy 

Homeopathy is another method to manage MS symptoms. It is a holistic therapy, which uses unique highly-diluted substances in order to trigger the body’s own healing mechanisms9. Homeopathy takes into consideration the minute details of someone’s life and can tackle symptoms both generically or individually10

If you are interested in hearing more about homeopathy, contact your doctor who can advise you best. 

6. Yoga/Pilates 

Yoga and Pilates have many benefits for those living with MS. The varying physical postures, breathing exercises, relaxation and meditation help to reach the best state of physical and mental health vital to cope with MS symptoms11

As a form of exercise, yoga and Pilates have similar benefits to activities like swimming -improving balance, core strength and flexibility11. Studies have shown that yoga and Pilates can help to improve SPMS symptoms like fatigue, spasticity, mobility and balance11

One of the best things about yoga is that anyone can do it, even if you are not fully mobile. Regular stretching sessions could make a big difference to your MS symptoms and even help to slow the build-up of disability in progressive phases of the disease12.

To note, the management methods listed above have been found to be helpful by some people with MS, but this does not constitute a medical recommendation and are not to be taken as a substitute for medically prescribed treatments. Please speak to your doctor before trying any of these.

 

 References: 

  1. MS Trust. MS: the facts. Accessed September 2020. Available at: https://www.mstrust.org.uk/about-ms/what-ms/ms-facts.
  2. SPMS. MS Trust. Accessed September 2020. Available at: https://www.mstrust.org.uk/a-z/secondary-progressive-ms 
  3. Physiotherapy. MS Society. Accessed September 2020. Available at: https://www.mssociety.org.uk/about-ms/treatments-and-therapies/physiotherapy 
  4. Physiotherapy. MS Trust. Accessed September 2020. Available at: https://www.mstrust.org.uk/a-z/physiotherapy 
  5. Meditation. MS Trust. Accessed September 2020. Available at: https://www.mstrust.org.uk/a-z/meditation 
  6. Acupuncture. NHS. Accessed September 2020. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/acupuncture/ 
  7. Acupuncture and MS The Basic Facts. National MS Society. Accessed September 2020. Available at: https://www.nationalmssociety.org/NationalMSSociety/media/MSNationalFiles/Brochures/Brochure-Acupuncture-BasicFacts_FINAL.pdf 
  8. Cannabis. MS Trust. Accessed September 2020. Available at: https://www.mstrust.org.uk/a-z/cannabis 
  9. What is homeopathy? Society of Homeopaths. Accessed September 2020. Available at: https://homeopathy-soh.org/homeopathy-explained/what-is-homeopathy/ 
  10. Whitmarsh TE. Homeopathy in multiple sclerosis. Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery. 2003 Feb;9(1):5-9. doi: 10.1016/S1353-6117(02)00105-1. PMID: 12604318.
  11. Yoga. MS Trust. Accessed September 2020. Available at: https://www.mstrust.org.uk/a-z/yoga 
  12. Frank R, Larimore J. Yoga as a method of symptom management in multiple sclerosis. Frontiers in Neuroscience. 2015;9:133. doi:10.3389/fnins.2015.00133.
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