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Living with MS

You CAN ...

 
Improve your BALANCE
 

In order to improve your balance, you may have to lose your balance! You CAN address balance problems by challenging them.

By sticking to a program that is safe, yet pushes you to your limits, your balance can gradually improve.

   
 
 

How to start

Find the right therapist

Your neurologist, family doctor, nurse, other health-care professional —or staff at the nearest Society chapter—can refer you to rehab clinics or to therapists in private practice in your area. Some therapies may be provided in your home through a visiting nurse agency.

 
  • See your health-care provider to make sure MS is the cause of your balance problems; sometimes loss of balance is due to other reasons.

  • Ask a rehabilitation professional, usually a physical therapist (PT), skilled in treating patients with MS, to thoroughly evaluate you and your balance issues. Your PT will design exercises and teach compensatory techniques to improve your balance.

  • Discuss exercises and compensatory techniques with your health-care provider before embarking on a program.
 

Common techniques
used to improve balance

Loss of balance can…

- Result directly from MS damage in the brain, usually in the cerebellum, which is the center for balance and coordination.

- Also result from other symptoms caused by MS, such as visual disturbances, loss of sensation, spasticity, or weakness.

- Worsen as a person ages.

- Worsen from “deconditioning.” This is loss of strength and flexibility from lack of exercise.

 
  • “Vestibular rehabilitation”—This involves exercises and techniques designed to induce brief periods of loss of balance. This helps you learn to adapt. Exercises may include eye or head movements, distorting or eliminating visual input, and changing or moving weight-bearing surfaces.

  • photoCompensation techniques—These may be as simple as using a handrail on the stairs or making sure you get adequate rest if you tend to lose your balance when you are tired. Major help can come from aids such as a cane, brace, or walker. These aids don’t mean surrender! They improve your personal appearance and increase safety, as balance problems can lead to slips and falls.

  • Symptom management—Spasticity or fatigue may indirectly affect balance. These conditions can be managed with medications in addition to physical and occupational therapy.

 
 


 
Contributing editors: Brian Hutchinson, PT, MSCS, President, The Heuga Center; Pat Kennedy, RN, CNP, MSCN, The Heuga Center; Momentum Magazine.
 
You CAN! is brought to you by The Heuga Center, promoting health and creating hope for people with MS for more than 20 years, and by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society as a reminder that despite the challenges MS may bring, you have a whole life to live.
We encourage you to visit You CAN! regularly. Topics change every other month.
 

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