Multiple sclerosis (MS) has widespread effects on the body. The disease is characterized by a breakdown of the protective cover surrounding the nerves, called the myelin sheath. When the myelin sheath is compromised, it makes it more difficult for the brain to communicate critical messages to the rest of the body. Unfortunately, the ways in which MS affects the body are rarely isolated: when nerve cells are damaged as a result of myelin sheath damage, it leads to a disconnection between the brain and the organs, muscles, and tissues.
Muscle Weakness & Pain
Muscle weakness can impede daily life, and for some, it turns even basic tasks into obstacles. Weakness is often reported by MS patients in the limbs, which can make it difficult to walk, shower, and get dressed. It’s also the culprit behind foot drop, in which the front part of the foot cannot be lifted. This causes individuals to adjust their gait, such as swing their leg outward.
Beyond weakness, MS also often produces muscular pain. Many people with MS experience a sensation of “pins and needles,” sharp pain, tingling, or aches. Involuntary muscle spasms are also common and are experienced primarily in the legs.
While options such as nerve-blocking agents, muscle relaxants, and pain relievers may be prescribed to treat severe muscle spasms or pain, many patients choose to explore non-drug alternatives first. Working with an occupational therapist, for example, can aid people with muscle pain or weakness in developing different approaches for completing daily tasks and conserving energy. Physical therapists, too, can provide targeted exercises to strengthen key muscle groups, which could help to combat muscle weakness or pain. Lastly, lifestyle adjustments such as improved sleep habits, rest breaks, and assistive devices could help you navigate the muscular challenges presented by MS. Stem cell therapy may also be an alternative option those with MS may consider to potentially help in managing some of the symptoms associated with MS.