Combating Muscle Weakness Associated with MS
Sometimes walking, even with an assistance device, can be very challenging because of the extreme muscle weakness that I experience. The slow, off-balanced gait that has been my constant companion for many years prior to my 2010 multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis is definitely on the decline.
Accepting the downward progression with MS is not an easy task. Most of the time I live in denial about my ever-changing MS symptoms. Yet, In the back of my mind, I am increasingly made aware of the decreased power my body is experiencing.
Even though it is the increased weakness in my legs that stands out the most to me, the irony is that my arms and hands appear to be getting stronger. It was my husband who brought this to my attention. I was rubbing his back one day when he noticed I massaged with more strength than ever before.
I feel the strength in my arms and hands comes from the pressure I have been applying on my walker. In my mind, since my legs are growing weaker, I am overcompensating with my hands and arms to help me walk. Although the added pressure put on my walker handgrips makes my upper extremities ache, it is apparent they are becoming stronger.
This realization led me to search the internet for help with my weak legs. If applied pressure and added use of my extremities could increase strength in my hands and arms, couldn’t it do the same for my legs?
An article about different MS symptoms from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) titled, “Weakness,” states that muscle weakness is common with MS and that the first step in treating the weakness is to find the cause.
The article adds that the symptoms associated with MS, such as fatigue, mobility issues, and imbalance, can make it very hard to stay active. Both inactivity and underuse of muscles can contribute to muscle weakness for those with MS and for those without it.
A physical therapist can recommend a resistance weight training program to coordinate with your physical abilities for this type of weakness caused by lack of muscle use.
Another cause of muscle weakness is demyelination. In MS, the myelin around the nerves wears away, leaving exposed nerves. The connection then malfunctions and there are no longer stable conductors between the brain and nerves, which help signal the muscles how to work. If there is a short in the communication connection, it can cause the muscle weakness.
Since the demyelination is due to nerve damage, the resistance weight training will not work on that weakness. The NMSS recommends instead “to maintain the tone of those muscles that are not receiving adequate nerve conduction with regular use, while working to strengthen the surrounding muscles that are receiving adequate conduction.”
The NMSS article about muscle weakness stresses the importance of movement, whether it be through exercise or an activity. The benefits of activity are huge and something we should all make a priority for our MS and muscle weakness.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.