Multiple Sclerosis: Types, Symptoms, and Pain Management

Multiple Sclerosis is among the most common (acquired) chronic neurological diseases that affect young adults between the ages of 20 to 40 and is more prevalent among women than men. The cause of Multiple Sclerosis is unknown. However, scientists believe that the inflammatory disease may be triggered by a genetic predisposition and environmental factors. This can include obesity, smoking, as well as vitamin D deficiency. Here is everything you need to know about multiple sclerosis.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease that attacks the central nervous system. It strips away the protective myelin coating and causes damage to the nerve fibers. Myelin is a fatty substance that surrounds and insulates nerves in the central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous systems (PNS). Myelin, which also contains protein, enables communication (impulses) between the brain and other vital parts in the body through nodes.

When the brain sends messages through the spinal cord nerves from node to node, the protective myelin sheath stops them from escaping through the wrong point. Multiple sclerosis is triggered by the destruction of the myelin in the central nervous system or when the immune system attacks the protein in the myelin. When the body’s immune system T-cells partially or completely strip the protective myelin off the nerve fibers, they become unprotected and uninsulated.

The nerves cannot process messages from the brain to the other body parts. So even if the impulses are sent, they’re delayed, distorted, or misinterpreted by the brain.

What are the Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?

As aforementioned, in MS, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the myelin and causes it to break down through a demyelination process. This damage causes hard scar tissue, known as plaques, to form on the nerve, leading to disrupted nerve impulses.

Subsequent degeneration occurs, resulting in a range of symptoms, including:

  • Vision changes
  • Loss of sensation
  • Incontinence issues
  • Reduced sexual desire
  • Fatigue, body pains, and spasticity
  • Weakness, dizziness, and balance issues
  • Changes in cognitive thinking and memory
  • Mood swings: anxiety, irritability, uncontrollable laughing or crying
  • Loss of motor function (problems in walking or hand and arm movement)

Note that MS has many variable and unpredictable symptoms. In fact, no two people experience similar symptoms. Additionally, they can experience pain in different areas of the body. This depends on the part of the central nervous system affected.

Types of Multiple Sclerosis

There are three main types of multiple sclerosis; four if you include Benign MS. It’s a version of remitting multiple sclerosis and is diagnosed in patients who have encountered mild to no attacks in 15 years. The three are;

  • Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – characterized by the onset of neurological symptoms and pain that persist for days or weeks. These resolve on their own or with medication. 
  • Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – mostly comes after Relapsing-Remitting MS for most people, and symptoms worsen without remission.
  • Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – the patients experience heaviness and stiffness in the lower limbs, causing a gradual change in mobility over time.

Find Relief in Physical Therapy

There’s no cure for MS. However, your doctor may prescribe steroids to mitigate relapses and recommend a home exercise program (HEP) or disease-modifying physical therapy sessions to manage symptoms. MS-related muscle weakness can cause balance, dizziness, muscle spasms, as well as spasticity issues. You can benefit from specialized vestibular training to strengthen your muscles and improve overall stability.

Physical therapy can also be highly beneficial at the onset of MS because a professional therapist can help you understand and cope with bodily changes as the disease progresses. Under the supervision of a physiotherapist, performing repositioning stretches for balance and mobility can help improve active range of motion (AROM).

Don’t suffer through pain alone. For treatment options, please call Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehab for an evaluation at (570) 208-2787.