Written by: Dr. Andrew Beardslee, PT, DPT, MSCS
Premier Physical Therapy observes March as Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. In promoting awareness of MS, allow us to provide some brief education about this disease. MS affects the central nervous system by removing cells which protect and insulate the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Any nerve in the brain and spinal cord is subject to damage. Because each of the hundreds of thousands of nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord has a very specific job, the symptoms of MS vary greatly from one person to another.
Common symptoms include abnormal, absent, and painful sensations in the arms or legs. Because so much of the brain coordinates our senses and movement, balance problems are also common. Cognitive function can be affected as well, so sometimes there is a result of foggy thinking or mild to severe confusion. There are also embarrassing symptoms involving bowel and bladder control as well. There may be muscle spasms, weakness, or diskinesia (lack of coordination). Basically, if the brain controls a function, MS can impair that function.
Treatment for MS has its limitations – there is no cure. Some medications have been proven to slow the decline in function, but MS is a progressive neurological disorder which typically worsens disability as the years roll on. There is no medication yet proven to reverse the damage done to the neurons by MS.
Physical therapy for MS is very challenging for the physical therapy team, as each patient is so unique. The PT team must identify each patient’s specific impairments and focus on the most vital to restoring function. For one patient the goal may be to safely walk with a cane instead of a walker, and for another it may be to regain hand function to allow safe driving. The good news is that focused rehab can result in strengthening of muscles and improved coordination to reduce some of the disability caused by MS.
Premier Physical Therapy’s specialization with MS rehabilitation is rare. Our team members all have experience with this disease. As a continued yearning to allow Premier to provide the highest quality of care to our MS patients, I recently completed additional certification as a Multiple Sclerosis Certified Specialist (MSCS). I am honored to be the only physical therapist in Southwest Ohio with this distinction, certified by the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers.
Premier Physical Therapy has worked closely with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for over a decade. We are currently recognized by the MS Society as a Partner in Care, meaning they have identified Premier as their recommended physical therapy provider for people with multiple sclerosis in the Greater Cincinnati area. Premier also partners with the MS Society for various activities to support the MS community, such as the Free From Falls Program – a six week informational course given to educate people with MS about fall prevention strategies and exercises.
We encourage you to connect with us and/or the MS Society for more information about programs available to people with multiple sclerosis. MS Awareness Month would also be a fantastic time to consider donating financially to the MS Society, or to volunteer to assist in some of their programs. Also, be looking for an upcoming opportunity to donate to the MS Society through Premier Physical Therapy’s team for the MS Walk coming up in April!