Have you ever wondered if there was a novel approach to manage one or more of your MS symptoms? Adequate symptom management is key to living well with your MS. There are a variety of approaches to managing your symptoms: prescription and over the counter medications, complementary and alternative medicine, rehabilitation, and other self-help strategies. In this article we are going to explore a few unique ways to manage some of the unique symptoms you may be experiencing.
Our brain is our master computer- messages come into our brain; our brain interprets them and then sends a message out in response. Messages from receptors in our periphery (for example, in our skin and joints) send messages to our brain to convey information about sensation. These messages tell our brain whether something is hot or cold, dull or sharp, smooth or rough to name a few. If the messages that are being sent from the periphery through our spinal cord which then sends them on to our brain get interrupted or “short circuited” because of the loss of myelin then our brain doesn’t get accurate information. The brain may misinterpret the information and cause you to feel numb or tingly or itchy or even loss of sensation.
Abnormal sensations do not indicate a worse MS disease course but they can be very annoying, distracting or even painful. There is some research to support that in MS sensory retraining (providing a lot of sensation to the areas of your body that do not have normal sensation) can improve this symptom. Some examples of sensory retraining are massaging the area or using different textures to provide stimulation to the area. If your hands are numb or tingling, you may try placing your them in a bowl of dried rice or beans and working your hands through it to provide a lot of sensory information to your brain. For burning or tingling feet try rolling a frozen water bottle under your foot, it provides a massaging effect and also the sensation of cold.
Exercise can be viewed as a prescription for your symptom management and is key for your overall health and wellness. Although exercising consistently can be challenging, finding an activity you enjoy will help keep you on track. Utilizing a video gaming system like the Wii Fit Plus can increase your participation and enjoyment. It has been demonstrated that in persons with MS using the Wii can improve your balance and your consistency of exercising.
Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is a method of stimulating the peripheral nerves to cause a contraction of our muscles. Technology has improved to the point where FES can be coupled with walking or biking to have our muscles contract at exactly the right time to facilitate these activities. The WalkAide and Bioness are two such devices which cause a contraction of the muscles which lift the foot when someone is experiencing foot drop. FES can be done with the muscle movements of biking to allow someone who is weak to engage in this activity and reap the benefits of this exercise.
Many people with MS experience increased symptoms in the heat. This heat can be from the environment or from internal heat from a fever or exercising. Some novel approaches to staying cool are misting fans, eating flavored shaved ice (watch out for your sugar intake though!), cooling devices (chillow pillow, hot girl pearls) or even remote car starters to cool your car off before you get in it.
Click here to get even more great tips on this topic by viewing our webinar on MS Symptoms Part I: Unique Approaches to Unique Symptoms.