In the United States, approximately one million people live with multiple sclerosis (MS). Normally, the first symptoms and diagnosis occur between the age of 15 and 50, but it can be diagnosed at any age. This is especially true for individuals living in North America, as research suggests that people living farther from the equator are more likely to develop MS. Although the average risk of developing this condition in the country is less than half of one percent, being diagnosed with MS is challenging. For those who recently received an MS diagnosis, proceeding in this new phase of life will seem intimidating.
To this end, we have a few tips to help you:
Create an exercise plan
Exercising is beneficial for improving symptoms (like fatigue and mobility problems) and reducing the progression of MS. However, this should be done with precaution as each person’s symptoms and response to MS are different. If overdone, it can bring negative consequences to your health. This is why working with an MS fitness professional who understands proper exercise methods for MS is a must. These are professionals that help patients recover from and adapt to a variety of ailments and conditions. They will assess your condition as an MS patient and customize an approach according to your needs like strength resistance training for better balance, mobility, and strength. Look for MS exercise specialists that prioritize the efficiency of workouts, such as going at a slower pace so that the movements are really targeted.
MS Fitness Specialist David Lyons has built a community that focuses on training programs for MS patients. His experience as a fellow MS patient led him to develop training methods that are tried and tested. Today, Lyons helps similar individuals by providing them with the proper exercise methods that will benefit their condition. Join our MS Training Program or set an appointment with David to receive the most comprehensive MS fitness program in the world.
Tailor your surroundings accordingly
Customizing your space is crucial for ensuring your safety and comfort. Because fatigue, muscle stiffness, and mobility are common issues experienced by someone with MS, make changes in your surroundings to make your life a little easier. An occupational therapist can provide suggestions on how to modify your usual environment to make it optimal for living with MS. While they’re skilled in helping patients improve with regards to a condition like MS, they are also able to identify certain tools and techniques to simplify tasks for the way the disease has affected your body.
For example, they may suggest installing grab bars in the bathroom and high-traffic areas like hallways for when symptoms occur unexpectedly. A stairway lift and roll-in shower can also conserve energy when experiencing fatigue. If you have to use a wheelchair frequently, install ramps and clear passageways to make your home wheelchair accessible.
Tailoring your surroundings according to your needs will ensure your safety in the long run as you navigate life with MS. The ‘Accessibility Room by Room’ telelearning project by the National MS Society is headed by an occupational therapist who can help you make home modifications for MS.
Surround yourself with support
Research on social support and pain among individuals with MS found that the two have a correlation: those with less social support experience more pain. Additionally, a support system can lessen your anxiety and fear over your condition and provide you with emotional support. These groups often consist of fellow MS individuals, a supportive community of friends and family, and even health professionals that can empathize with you, answer questions and provide resources. Some MS support groups to join include the MS FitChallenge GYM on Facebook, My MSAA Community, and MS Focus Independent Support Group Network.
Aside from family, friends, and support groups, a psychology professional can help you work through your feelings in a more structured manner. They are trained to understand the human mind, making them qualified to help with any mental issues regarding your MS diagnosis, especially when it starts to affect your daily activities. Lastly, these professionals are equipped with problem-solving and empathy skills, allowing them to advise you on the next steps to take. Contact the National MS Society for recommendations on psychology professionals in your area.
Establish a healthy diet
A healthy diet will support the body to work against the inflammation brought about by MS. Our very own MS Fitness Challenge co-founder, David Lyons, even shared how he made an effort in including anti-inflammatory foods and supplements in his diet after his diagnosis. Recommended food for people with MS includes mackerel, sardines, and salmon, all have omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation.
To further tailor your specific nutritional needs, it is also recommended to see a registered dietitian that specializes in MS for guidance. They can give you a specially customized plan after reviewing your medical history and consulting with you.
Living with MS is a daunting journey. However, with these tips, you can better prepare for this new phase in your life.
Article exclusively written for msfitnesschallenge.org
Authored by Raffy Jo