March is Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness Month. It is an opportunity each year to focus more on understanding the challenges that our MS patients are facing. Awareness is a foundation, and it can be a wellspring to advancing our knowledge, deepening our compassion, and strengthening our resolve to help those who live with a disease like MS and to find ways to advance treatment and to someday find a cure.
Part One: ‘MS 101’
We’ve excerpted the following content from the National MS Society website to remind everyone about some of what is already known about MS.
What is MS?
First, let’s remind ourselves what MS is.
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. It is thought to be an immune-mediated disorder, in which the immune system incorrectly attacks healthy tissue in the CNS.
In multiple sclerosis, damage in the CNS interferes with the transmission of nerve signals between the brain and spinal cord and other parts of the body.
Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, although children and older adults may develop it.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary in type and severity from one person to another and in the same person over time. Symptoms may disappear or remit completely, or they may persist and may worsen over time.
The most common symptoms of MS include fatigue, numbness and tingling, blurred vision, double vision, weakness, poor coordination, imbalance, pain, depression and problems with memory and concentration. Less commonly MS may cause tremor, paralysis, and blindness.
There are now FDA-approved medications that have been shown to “modify” the course of MS by limiting new areas of damage in the CNS, reducing the number of relapses and delaying progression of disability. In addition, many therapeutic and technological advances are helping with more effective symptom management. Advances in treating and understanding MS are made every year, hopefully moving research closer to identifying a cure.
Why is early treatment important?
Early damage in the CNS can occur even before you are experiencing any symptoms. Studies show that the best chance for reducing long-term disability is during the early relapsing phase of the disease, which is characterized by inflammation. Given that the medications currently available all primarily target inflammation, early and ongoing treatment helps to minimize this inflammation and reduces damage to nerve fibers (axons) and loss of brain tissue.
Why is MS so difficult to diagnose?
Diagnosing MS can be a challenging process. In early MS, symptoms may be non-specific and suggestive of several disorders of the nervous system. Early symptoms that come and go may be ignored. While no single laboratory test is yet available to prove or rule out MS, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a great help in reaching a definitive diagnosis. Diagnostic criteria that incorporate MRI findings and spinal fluid analysis have been developed and revised by experts in the field to help providers make an accurate and timely diagnosis.
Physical Therapy & MS
Physical therapists (PT) evaluate and address your body’s ability to move and function, with particular emphasis on walking and mobility, strength, balance, posture, fatigue and pain. Physical therapy might include an exercise program, gait (walking) training and training in the use of mobility aids (poles, canes, crutches, scooters and/or wheelchairs) and other assistive devices. The goal is to promote independence, safety, and achieve and maintain optimal functioning. In addition, rehabilitation can help prevent complications such as de-conditioning, muscle weakness from lack of mobility and muscle contractures related to spasticity. Physical therapy can also include pelvic floor exercises to address urinary/bladder issues.
Part Two: Our Podcast on MS with Dr. Terry Wahls
We believe that the most powerful and transformative way to help people recover from pain and injury, heal from trauma, and reach their highest levels of fitness and performance is to focus on the nervous system! In our weekly podcast series, The NeuFit Undercurrent, we share knowledge from the frontiers of neuroscience and inspirational stories of how applying that knowledge has empowered people from all walks of life to heal, adapt, and grow.
Our most recent episode is very special. Garrett Salpeter, host of our podcast series and founder & CEO of NeuFit®, spoke with the esteemed physician and MS expert, Dr. Terry Wahls. Author of the best-selling book, “The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles”, and a professor at the University of Iowa Medical School, Dr. Wahls is an inspiration to all of us at NeuFit for her research, teachings and her own courageous fight against MS that has shed important new insights on the causes, diagnosis and the role of diet in treatment.
Dr. Wahls continues to pioneer a new standard of care for MS patients that challenges past assumptions. We encourage everyone to tune in to our podcast. Her story is truly inspiring and how she confronts MS head-on in her own life resonates for us beyond the scope of MS to how we can harness the power of the human spirit to face life’s most difficult challenges.
You can find this episode and all our episodes here: NeuFit Undercurrent Podcast
Let’s charge forward to better outcomes together!