Rehabilitation in Multiple Sclerosis

In spite of the development and use of disease modifying therapies, most individuals with MS will have limitations. Although rehabilitation does not directly impact the pathologic processes involved in MS, rehabilitation techniques can be highly effective in treating MS symptoms and in improving quality of life. Rehabilitation is an active process intended to help the patient recover and/or maintain the highest possible level of functioning and realize his or her optimal physical, cognitive, and social potential despite the limitations of physical disability. A major goal of rehabilitation in MS is to intervene in ways that will help people regain a sense of control over their bodies and their lives, and increase their self-esteem.

From the time of diagnosis, and even before symptoms of disability occur, the rehabilitation team can provide education and treatment designed to promote general conditioning and to reduce fatigue. As the disease progresses, team members become more active, designing problem-focused interventions that can help the patient and family to:


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Rehabilitation techniques can directly improve the pathological processes involved in MS.

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The rehabilitation team focuses on impairments such as spasticity, movement disorders, weakness, imbalance, fatigue, muscle paralysis or weakness, bowel and bladder problems, visual disturbances, pain, sensory changes, speech and swallowing problems, and cognitive impairment. Although rehabilitation interventions cannot reverse neurological damage caused by the disease process, they reduce disability by lessening the impact of impairments on daily functioning, and enhancing the patient’s ability to carry out daily activities and participate to the fullest extent possible in life roles.

Rehabilitation professionals face certain challenges in caring for the patient with MS that are different than working with people with other types of physical disabilities.


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Maximizing life quality despite progressive physical impairments is a major challenge in MS rehabilitation.
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MS related depression is thought to be caused by neurological changes in the brain’s mood control center and by the stresses caused by the disease.
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If cognitive impairment occurs in MS, it tends to occur late in the progression of the disease.
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Click here to continue with the rehabilitation approach to MS by exploring the roles of specific caregivers.


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