Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week; BetterPT is Helping Patients Live Their Best Lives

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system. MS occurs when the insulating covers (myelin) of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged. This interrupts the flow of information from the brain to the body and affects movement.

More than 2 million people between the ages of 20-50 are diagnosed with MS each year with 2x more woman affected than men. It is not fatal, contagious or directly inherited however it is often a disabling disease. The primary cause of MS is unknown and there is no direct cure for it.

Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

Symptoms of MS can be measured by the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDDS) and include:

  • Sensational changes: Numbness and tingling in arms and legs and chronic pain
  • Musculoskeletal changes: Weakness, muscle spasms, difficulty with coordination and balance, difficulty in moving, and intensified reflexes
  • Central changes: Fatigue, depression, anxiety, mood swings, and cognitive impairment
  • Visual changes: Blurred vision, eye pain, involuntary eye movement
  • Speech & throat changes: Dysarthria & dysphagia – difficulty swallowing and speaking correctly
  • Bowel & bladder changes: Increased frequency of urination and inability to control bowel or bladder function

Benefits of MS Treatment Through Physical Therapy

Living with Multiple Sclerosis can be very challenging and overwhelming. It is extremely important to become educated on the resources available and be proactive in receiving treatment. Symptoms of MS can be successfully controlled with medical management and physical therapy rehabilitation.  Treatment can reduce relapses and slow progression of the disease in people living with MS.


Physical therapy can begin directly after being diagnosed with MS. A physical therapist can help improve balance, improve strength and tackle fatigue in patients living with MS. Physical therapy can teach a patient how to save energy and find better ways to perform everyday tasks. Research has shown that MS patients benefit from regular physical activity and exercise and that any new exercise program should be initialized by a physical therapist or exercise physiologist familiar with the disease.   

There are physical therapists who specialize primarily in neurologically impaired patients with multiple sclerosis. These physical therapists have obtained their Neurologic Clinical Specialist (NCS) degree through the American Physical Therapy Foundation (APTA)

A physical therapist will help return a patient to their roles performed at home, work and in the community.

Physical therapy for a patient living with MS will help provide:

  • Proper education to the patient and caregiver regarding symptoms of MS and what to do to alleviate symptoms of MS
  • Stretches to combat and prevent muscle spasms
  • Safe exercise routines to keep muscles strong and prevent atrophy
  • Respiratory exercises to enhance breathing capacity and decrease energy expenditure
  • Range of motion exercises to maintain proper movement patterns
  • Balance and coordination exercises to prevent falls
  • Aquatic therapy to enhance a patients’ ability to move and increase activity
  • Education on how to use assistive devices such as canes, crutches, wheelchairs or other aids if needed
  • Tests such as functional capacity evaluations (FCE) to evaluate if the patient is safe to perform their job functions
  • Information to help patients obtain resources such as social security disability benefits
  • Identify community resources that support goals of physical therapy 

Physical therapy will not only help decrease the progression of MS but it will also provide a community of caring people who will help you battle the good days and bad days of MS.

If you or someone you know has Multiple Sclerosis you can direct them to the BetterPT website or BetterPT mobile app to help find a physical therapy clinic that is right for you. Don’t wait to start living your life the best you can. Use physical therapy resources available to you and start living BETTER today!

Dr. Marla Ranieri graduated from Stanford University with her bachelor's degree in Human Biology in 2005 and went on to receive her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2009. Marla has worked with all types of individuals, including professional athletes as part of the USA Gymnastics Medical Staff. Marla continues to treat patients with evidence-based medicine and the best quality of care.

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