Combating Muscle Weakness Associated with MS

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.

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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.

23 comments

  1. Clint says:

    Don’t give up. My neuro suggested exercising instead of drugs for pain, so I started going to the gym. In 10 years, I have gone from not being able to jump to doing jumps in exercise classes, even if only a few inches. I started with an MS pilates class, and progressed to regular pilates, yoga, turbo kick box, body pump, body combat, and total body fitness classes. I started trying to jog, and got up to a 9 minute mile pace for 1/4 mile a a time (stopped after I fell and broke my jaw – make sure to be safe). I firmly believe in brain plasticity after reading “The Brain that changes itself” by Norman Doidge and “Soft-Wired” by Michael Merzenich, which I got from the library. Taking Ampyra has really helped too.

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Thank-you for the encouragement Clint! I will never give up and your success with staying active is an inspiration! Thanks again, Debi

    • Clint says:

      Any exercise is good. Several years ago I saw a basketball sitting there while at something with my kids. The shot fell several feet short of the basket and it was embarrassing. But I started 2 years ago shooting for 15 minutes a day while at the gym. Slow progress at first, but can now shoot better than I did 40 years ago. Can’t run after the ball when I miss, but that’s ok and I am glad to be able to walk after it. Whatever you try, keep at it and enjoy all the small successes.

  2. Sylvia says:

    I walked with a severe limp due to muscle weakness in my right leg after an exacerbation last November. My neurologist said that my limp would never improve. I went to a neurophysiotherapist who gave me a series of exercises. I now walk normally and danced until 1:00am at a wedding this past weekend! I now do aquafit twice a week and a gym program once a week. I bike, kayak and go for walks. Never let anyone tell you how your life will turn out!

  3. Dina says:

    If you con’t know AXIOBIONICS in Ann Arbor, Michigan this is worth investigating. The designs can transform both locomotion and pain dramatically.

  4. Anil Ron says:

    The article and comments are both encouraging…I am trying to help my fight MS the Yoga and strengthening way and your article and comments helped her believe that there’s a way out…

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Thank-you for your comments Anil! It is very good when we can encourage and support each other! Best to you, Debi

  5. maria Mouhtad says:

    Hello.

    When reading your great comments, i felt so relieved. As an MS patient i need to know more and connect with other informed M.S patients.

    Thank you.
    Maria.

  6. Edita says:

    Hi,
    I have MS diagnose for 4 years. Before 4 years it was my first and the last attac. Now I am ok (I think so 🙂 ) I tried to do yoga, but I encountered with big head ache when doing head down exersises. Is this related with MS? What do you think? Maybe someone of you has the same problem?

    Good luck for everybody!
    Edita

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Hi Edita, A Doctor would be the best to answer your question about yoga and MS. I just don’t know, like you said, maybe A reader will have experience with that. Good luck to you too! Thanks for your comments! Debi

  7. Carol Feinour says:

    I am 71 and was just diagnosed with MS. 15 years for steroid dependency for asthma masked symptoms. Have been going to PT for years for pain and ? weakness. Have always exercised. My therapist taught me how to have a strong core. I do not get out of bed before I do my stretches. I am not seeing him for balance therapy and can already see improvement.I am going to try yoga next.

  8. Heidi St.Pierre says:

    I live alone and have stairs. I regularly do most house chores and do extra excersizes on my own. I also alpine ski (ontario, Canada, so hardly alpine but hey) 1-2xwk. I have had sx of MS around 25 yrs, and now I get severe spasticity, wkness rt leg.Balance issues, and fatigue.I just take my time, and go easy on myself, Just like my mom, Karen, always said to me . With or without MS Im a better person now. this handicap is an education, we all get one and its a gift to learn from it.

  9. Lisa UK says:

    I hadn’t done any regular exercise since my diagnosis in 2008. I needed a lot of medication to manage the muscle spasms and spasticity and have used a walker for four years. Then I decided to join a gym last winter and thought I would really see if I could build up my fitness and strength. It’s taken time but I now do a 75 minute, hard workout that’s around 50% cardio and 50% strength at least four times a week. I feel great, my blood pressure and weight have come down and I’ve reduced the muscle relaxant medication. I still need my walker because of balance issues but I zip around these days. I’d say to anyone with MS give exercise a go, be prepared for it to take time to see results but you when you do it’s a fantastic feeling.

  10. Sue says:

    Has anyone experienced a specific muscle being weak? It is the quad muscles in one leg that will suddenly hurt and then just not support me. I had hip replacement about 3.5 years ago on that side, and work out a couple of times per week. But when this happens I can’t walk at all because the muscle just gives up. It does seem to be tied to when I’m tired, e.g., I worked out for 30 minutes last night, then went to a rehearsal where I was on my feet for an hour.

    Thoughts? I’d just like to understand what’s happening

  11. Susan kithaka says:

    I have had ms for the last 28yrs and I tell you it’s not been easy. But with God my hope and strength i have made it this far. I have had to change my food diet and eating raw vegetables alot. Am able to walk around and do house chores here and there and when i get tired i have to rest. And am not on any medication. I thank God for that.

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