What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, leading to a wide range of physical and cognitive impairments. While there is currently no cure for MS, there is growing evidence that exercise can play a crucial role in improving the overall well-being and quality of life for patients. In this blog post, we will explore the numerous benefits of physiotherapy led exercise specifically tailored for MS patients, highlighting how it can positively impact their physical health, cognitive function, emotional well-being, and overall disease management.
Physical Health Benefits
Engaging in regular exercise has been shown to have a multitude of physical health benefits for MS patients. Firstly, exercise can enhance cardiovascular fitness, strengthen muscles, and improve overall mobility. This is particularly important for MS patients, as the disease often results in muscle weakness, balance problems, and fatigue. Additionally, exercise helps to promote better circulation, which can reduce the risk of developing secondary conditions such as deep vein thrombosis and osteoporosis. Moreover, physical activity can help to manage weight and prevent or mitigate other comorbidities, such as diabetes and heart disease, which are often associated with MS. Very clear exercise guidelines exist for the MS population and are summarised beautifully in the following research paper : Exercise and lifestyle physical activity recommendations for people with multiple sclerosis throughout the disease course (Kalb et al; 2017).
Cognitive Function and Neuroplasticity
MS can have a significant impact on cognitive function, including memory, attention, and information processing. However, research suggests that exercise can help improve these cognitive abilities in MS patients. Regular physical activity has been found to enhance neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to reorganise and form new neural connections—leading to improvements in cognitive function. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, promoting the release of growth factors and reducing inflammation, all of which contribute to better brain health. By engaging in exercises that challenge coordination, balance, and cognitive processing, MS patients can potentially slow down cognitive decline and maintain cognitive abilities for longer.
Emotional Well-being and Mood Enhancement
Living with a chronic condition like MS can take a toll on a person’s emotional well-being. Exercise, however, has been shown to be a powerful tool in improving mood and reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety in MS patients. Physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins, the body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals, which can alleviate stress and boost mood. Additionally, exercise provides a sense of accomplishment and empowerment, helping patients regain a sense of control over their bodies and lives. Participating in group exercise programs can also foster social connections, combating feelings of isolation and enhancing overall psychological well-being. That being said, a major struggle that people with MS face is remaining compliant with exercise and that’s where having a Physiotherapist guide and monitor your program is beneficial.
Disease Management and Symptom Control
Exercise can also aid in managing the symptoms of MS and improving overall disease management. Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce fatigue, a common and debilitating symptom of MS. Exercise can also improve balance and coordination, reducing the risk of falls and injuries. Furthermore, studies have demonstrated that exercise can positively impact bladder and bowel function in MS patients, promoting better urinary and bowel control. By incorporating exercise into their daily routines, individuals with MS can better manage their symptoms and experience a higher quality of life. There is also some exciting evidence emerging that exercise can slow down disease progression and promote neurogenesis and neuroprotection (Lozinski 2020)
Exercise has the potential to bring about significant benefits for individuals living with Multiple Sclerosis. By engaging in regular physical activity, MS patients can improve their physical health, enhance cognitive function, boost emotional well-being, and better manage their symptoms.
Neurological trained physiotherapists are trained to assess and develop a personalised exercise program tailored to individual abilities and needs. With the right guidance and a commitment to regular exercise, MS patients can unlock the transformative power of physical activity, enabling them to lead healthier and more fulfilling lives despite the challenges posed by the condition.
Book an appointment with one of our experienced physiotherapists today at Revive Neuro Physiotherapy for a comprehensive assessment and customised treatment plan.