How Do MyMSTeam Members Manage Muscle Weakness?
Since muscle weakness in MS can have multiple causes, what works to manage it differs from person to person. MyMSTeam members often discuss ways to manage muscle weakness and share what has worked for them.
Work With a Physical Therapist or Occupational Therapist
A physical therapist (PT) or occupational therapist (OT) can help identify the best exercises for an individual, as well as help supervise exercise. As one MyMSTeam member said, “I'm now doing PT after an awful fall that left me in a wheelchair. But keep working to make your muscles stronger.”
Another member said, “I found a PT who listened to my concerns, and between him and me, we came up with exercises I could do that would help me with muscle strength. Exercises that target upper body, core and leg muscles. I use light weights and just increase reps or sets that coincide with my ability.”
Another MyMSTeam member recommends finding a PT who specializes in neurological conditions. “Look for a PT place that specializes in working with people with neurological diseases, like MS or Parkinson's, and with stroke victims and other brain injuries.”
Try to Exercise
For those whose muscle weakness may be exacerbated by deconditioning and muscle atrophy, exercise can be helpful. Exercise can also help prevent the development of related health conditions (known as comorbidities) that are more common in people with MS, such as high blood pressure.
Not everyone has the means or the opportunity to work with a physical therapist, but there are plenty of safe exercises people with MS can do at home. The UK-based MS Society has some suggestions for simple exercises including for balance and fatigue.
Members acknowledge that it can be hard to exercise with MS. Trying to overcome fatigue, finding the time, or not knowing how to exercise safely all present different challenges. Members encourage each other and offer tips for overcoming the challenges to staying active.
“When I stopped exercising, I felt weaker, and my doctor had some good advice,” said one MyMSTeam member. “On the days I feel weak just do five minutes of exercise. That way you are still doing something. I find once I get started I can usually do more than I thought I could!”
Another MyMSTeam member explained that an activity monitor has helped them keep up with exercise. “I have got one of those footstep counters. I try to do us much or even more than I did the day before,” they wrote.
MyMSTeam members who are able to incorporate more exercise often report improvements in muscle weakness:
- “I've started swimming twice a week to hopefully help my muscle strength. I still have weakness but I know I'm getting stronger because I'm able to swim longer with less pain.”
- “I had noticed some muscle weakness in my legs sometimes when I was walking my dog. I have since started going to a fitness club once a week, yoga once a week, dance class once a week, and all these have made a difference.”
- “My legs have been numb from mid-thigh down for years. Trying to maintain muscle strength has helped me to walk unaided so far most times.”
- “In my case the reduced activity weakened me significantly. I got an exercise bike and put in some effort. Six months later and I'm so much stronger. I still have my MS issues with balance etc., but it's made life far easier now.”
Fatigue is the most common MS symptom reported by MyMSTeam members, and it is possible that fatigue is contributing to your muscle weakness.
As one MyMSTeam member described her experience with muscle weakness, “I also suffer from terrible bouts of fatigue. One minute I am walking about my bungalow, then I collapse with no notice, absolutely shattered.”
If fatigue seems related to your muscle weakness, talk to your neurologist about how to manage the fatigue from MS. Addressing fatigue may be helpful in managing muscle weakness. Some MyMSTeam members report improving their fatigue with prescribed medications including Symmetrel (Amantadine), Provigil (Modafinil), Adderall (Amphetamine/Dextroamphetamine), Ritalin (Methylphenidate), and Concerta (Methylphenidate). Other members mention that dietary changes or taking certain supplements has helped with MS fatigue. Read more about how MyMSTeam members manage fatigue.
Use Mobility Aids
According to members, rollators, crutches, or canes can help on days when muscle weakness affects mobility. One MyMSTeam member finds that, “Like everyone else, I just keep moving! I used to walk a lot. Now I use a walker with wheels and love it! I can still walk with help.” Read more about how MyMSTeam members manage leg weakness.
Try to Keep a Positive Attitude
MyMSTeam members often face challenges related to what can be a debilitating and burdensome condition. Treating depression, finding support on MyMSTeam, and trying to keep a positive outlook are a few of the ways members get through hard times.
A sense of humor can be helpful, too. One MyMSTeam member made light of his limitations by writing, ”My ‘get up and go’ just ‘got up and went.’” Another member said, “I expect to drop so much - I think I'm getting good at catching.”
When you join MyMSTeam, the social network and online support group for those living with multiple sclerosis, you gain a community of 140,000 who understand exactly what you’re going through. Living with muscle weakness is one of the most popular topics of conversation.
Here are some conversations about muscle weakness:
Here are some question-and-answer threads about muscle weakness:
What have you found that helps your muscle weakness? What coping strategies have worked for you? Share your experiences in the comments below or directly on MyMSTeam.