Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an immune-mediate disease that affects millions of people around the world. The disease is a progressive, chronic disease that affects the myelin sheaths of your central nervous system. Overtime, the myelin sheath on your neurons will degrade and you will lose the ability to propagate nerve impulses quickly. This results in impaired functions and memory, depending on which neurons and nerves are affected. MS is a progressive disease that does not have a cure yet, meaning that patients who are diagnosed with the disease must cope with their symptoms and their diagnosis. Fortunately, there are many simple lifestyle measures that patients with MS can take to minimize the symptoms of MS. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with MS, consider the following tips to help minimize and cope with the symptoms of MS.
Patients who are recently diagnosed with MS may be having a difficult time coping with their diagnosis. MS is a lifelong disease that will cause progressive symptoms throughout a patient’s life. This thought can be incredibly depressing to patients. Like other chronic illnesses, MS will not go away, and instead it will wax and wane. One month you may feel great, while the next month you may have extreme symptoms that affect your everyday life. Suddenly, with a diagnosis of MS your whole life will change. Fatigue and painful symptoms may become a daily occurrence in your life, and overtime your symptoms may diminish your self-esteem and confidence. But, the best way to cope with MS is to become proactive. Through simple lifestyle changes you can help reduce your symptoms and start focusing on living your life comfortably instead of stressfully.
Extreme temperatures can easily exacerbate your symptoms. Both hot and cold extreme temperatures can cause your body to shut down and temporarily cause your symptoms to worsen. For this reason, it is vital that patients with MS avoid any extreme temperature changes. This includes outdoor temperatures, but also indoor temperatures. It is recommended that MS patients do not take extremely hot baths, visit saunas, or live in homes without air conditioning. However, if you do experience an exacerbation of your symptoms due to being in extreme temperatures temporarily, then you can rest assured that your symptoms should get better once you have cooled down or warmed up.
Exercise is an essential tool in living with MS. With regular exercise, you can greatly reduce your symptoms and possibly even stunt your disease’s progression. However, it is important that you do not overdo it while exercising; otherwise your symptoms could worsen. When starting an exercise plan it is a good idea to talk with your doctor to get their opinion about the details of your plan. Also, follow these simple tips:
- Warm up before you begin your exercise routine. One great way to warm up is to walk at a moderate pace for 5-10 minutes.
- Cool down at the end of your workout to cool down your muscles and nerves.
- Follow the 2 hour rule. It states that if two hours after you are finished exercising you do not feel as good as you did before you began exercising, then you overdid it. So, if after two hours you still feel sore, shaky, and tired then you need to slow down your exercise routine.
- Start slow. If you are just beginning an exercise routine, then start by exercising 2-3 times per week for 20-30 minutes per day. As your body gets used to the program, you can increase the intensity and/or the amount of exercise you complete.
- Do not exercise outside in high or low temperatures in order to avoid extreme temperatures.
- Always bring water in order to rehydrate your body throughout your exercise routine and to stay cool.
One of the most common issues in patients with MS is that they have trouble completing their daily activities. These activities may include dressing themselves, eating, bathing, and running errands. To help you cope with all of these activities, it is vital that you take it slow and remember your limitations. If you push yourself too far, then your body may rebel and your symptoms could exacerbate. Follow these simple tips to keep your symptoms at bay:
- When getting dressed, sit down in a chair or on your bed. Sitting will help you keep your balance and will help you conserve energy for the rest of the day.
- In order to make dressing yourself easier, wear clothes that are loose-fitting and have elastic waistbands.
- When it is time to bathe, using a shower seat or taking a bath may be the best option. If you want to shower, then shower seats are a great option that allows you to sit down while showering. They will help you stay balanced and will keep your energy intact so that you can go on about your day easily. Baths are great options as well, but be careful getting in and out of the bathtub. You may want to install grab bars in your bathroom in order to assist you.
- You can install non-slip mats in your bathtubs and showers in order to ensure that you will not slip while bathing.
- When running errands, try to organize them so that you can be done quickly and efficiently. Also, do your errands in order of priority so that if you grow too tired or your symptoms worsen, then you can go home to rest and not worry about not finishing an important errand.
- When doing errands, it is a great idea to bring along family or friends to help you. This will allow you to finish your errands quicker and will give you someone to talk to while running around town so that you will not focus on your symptoms.
Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disease that has no cure. Patients with the disease can make simple changes in their lives and lifestyles in order to minimize their symptoms to live a more comfortable life. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with MS, then consider following these simple lifestyle changes. To read more about lifestyle changes that can help you cope with MS, continue reading our second part installment of this blog.
For other related articles about Multiple sclerosis in our home care blog: