As a Partner in Care via the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, I was proud to be invited to attend the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) annual national conference in Indianapolis. It was a congregation of neurologists, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists who specialize in MS throughout the country (and even a few from outside the US). It was encouraging to hear about the research being done to identify causes of MS, treatments to slow progression, and even the attempt to reverse the damage to the neurological system caused by MS.
As I hoped, I gained a few clinical pearls of wisdom to share with patients and colleagues on my return. The first is related to chronic fatigue in MS. As PTs we are schooled to attempt to find a balance point between working patients with MS hard enough to gain strength yet also avoid undue fatigue. I know in my own experience I have definitely worked patients too little on occasion, thereby not stressing them enough to make any meaningful strength gains, and also sometimes worked patients too hard and exhausted them so much it is difficult to walk back to their car after the session (perhaps some of you reading this…). Both of these situations are frustrating for both the patient and the therapist.
New research has been completed which aimed to find the balance point for meaningful strength training without causing excessive fatigue. This is a huge step in the right direction for PT treatment and how we may establish home exercise programs. The research demonstrated low levels of fatigue after exercising at high levels of resistance and low number of repetition of exercises, with short rest breaks between sets. I have begun incorporating this idea into treatment with good clinical results so far; where patients feel they can really exert themselves without worrying about being physically drained for the next day or so.
Another continuing education session I completed offered use of kinesiotape (that athletic tape you see on beach volleyball players) in its specific use on patients with multiple sclerosis. While we have regularly used this product with patients who have orthopedic issues, I learned new uses to increase sensory input to improve balance, the use of tape to decrease muscle spasticity, and to encourage muscle activation in patients with MS. I can say that some of the early clinical evidence shows there may be some uses for kinesiotape for patients with MS that we previously had not considered, but it may take some trial and error to find the optimal application for each patient.
I also made several contacts with non-profit organizations that assist patients financially with prescription assistance, funding for physical therapy, co-payments, and even in some cases financial assistance with health insurance premiums. Below are two sources I would suggest starting with for finding funding and other support for patients with multiple sclerosis.
As a result of participation in the conference I feel supported by the wider community of health care practitioners who also specialize in treatment of patients with multiple sclerosis. I gained a greater appreciation for the wider scope of MS care and resources available to MS patients.