Join our email list!

Get daily updates delivered to your inbox
Thank you for subscribing

Getting Back to Physical Therapy for My MS

Getting Back to Physical Therapy for My MS
4.4
(16)

Are you sitting down? I am, but I’ve been doing too much of that this year.

For the past six months, I haven’t been using our community exercise room. I haven’t been able to swim. I haven’t gone outside that much. I’ve become a couch potato, and you know why: It’s the virus.

This is not a good thing. My back has become chronically stiff. Getting out of my car after just a 15-minute drive requires standing next to the car door and stretching before I can take a step, even with my canes. Sitting to write this column is best done with my laptop in my lap and my feet on a stool. My desk and chair have become my enemies. I’ve needed to do something about this problem, and I have — I’ve returned to physical therapy.

Exercise or physical therapy?

I’ve occasionally done physical therapy over the years. Being married to a retired physical therapist, you’d think I would have done it a lot, but I haven’t. I’ve worked out with weight machines and ridden a recumbent bike. I’ve done pool-walking and have swum laps. I’ve tried Pilates. I’ve done hippotherapy, my favorite exercise. Each of these has helped me physically and mentally, and I’ve enjoyed them.

Physical therapy, on the other hand, can be more work than fun. And my ability to schedule it has been limited to the number of sessions my insurance will pay for. But in addition to back stiffness, I’ve developed what seems to be sciatic nerve pain running down my leg from my left hip. The sciatic nerve originates along the lower section of the spinal column, so I decided that professional help was needed to manipulate the spine where it’s pressing on that nerve. And the physical therapy office is at the same street level as my home, so I really couldn’t find an excuse to avoid it.

Visiting the therapist

The physical therapist starts my weekly sessions by stretching both of my legs upward, moving them close to a 90-degree angle from the exam table. He also stretches them out to the side, parallel with the floor. For some of our sessions, he presses on specific spots along the spine to help loosen my discs, and he massages the path of the sciatic nerve, from my butt down to below my knee. Then I do exercises myself. It helps, but the relief is short-lived.

I continue the exercises the therapist assigns me at home. They’re probably familiar to anyone with back problems, and they include knee-to-chest stretches and side-to-side rocking, with my bent legs moving in one direction and my neck turning the opposite way. They’re boring, and I’m not great at doing this homework (nor was I great about doing homework back in high school), but at least I’m doing something. And combined with weekly sessions with my physical therapist, they seem to help a bit.

Have you worked with a physical therapist? Has it helped you? Please share in the comments below. 

This will be my last Friday column of 2020. I wish you all happy holidays and the hope that 2021 will be a much better year for all of us. I hope you’ll continue to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.

***

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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Diagnosed with MS at age 32 in 1980, Ed has written the “MS Wire” column for Multiple Sclerosis News Today since August 2016. He presents timely information on MS, blended with personal experiences. Before retiring from full-time work in 2012, Tobias spent more than four decades in broadcast and on-line newsrooms as a manager, reporter, and radio news anchor. He’s won several national broadcast awards. As an MS patient communicator, Ed consults with healthcare and social media companies. He’s the author of “We’re Not Drunk, We Have MS: A tool kit for people living with multiple sclerosis.” Ed and his wife split time between the Washington, D.C. suburbs and Florida’s Gulf Coast.
×
Diagnosed with MS at age 32 in 1980, Ed has written the “MS Wire” column for Multiple Sclerosis News Today since August 2016. He presents timely information on MS, blended with personal experiences. Before retiring from full-time work in 2012, Tobias spent more than four decades in broadcast and on-line newsrooms as a manager, reporter, and radio news anchor. He’s won several national broadcast awards. As an MS patient communicator, Ed consults with healthcare and social media companies. He’s the author of “We’re Not Drunk, We Have MS: A tool kit for people living with multiple sclerosis.” Ed and his wife split time between the Washington, D.C. suburbs and Florida’s Gulf Coast.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 4.4 / 5. Vote count: 16

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

13 comments

  1. Charles Lumia says:

    I went to physical therapy for a few weeks earlier this year before the coronavirus really took hold and closed everything down.

    I would say that it was definitely helpful in building confidence. I’m fairly young (35) but fell and my balance has been iffy for years.

    The PT exercises (vestibular I think they are called) are still done by every day and I try to come up with my own to see if they help.

    Overall it has definitely been worth the time and effort. If not for any actual gain in balance then for the confidence boost.

  2. Robin says:

    Ed,
    Just wanted to share that I have something that I think is sciatic pain in one leg. I’ve been doing p/t, which helps somewhat, but it keeps coming back. I recently started seeing a Feldenkrais practitioner for general MS issues and it’s really helped enormously with the pain. I’ve gotten some ‘exercises’ that I can do myself that help a lot. Best wishes–

      • Robin says:

        Feldenkrais is based on using very gentle movements to help rewire the nervous system. It’s not about working on specific muscles or strengthening them. It sounds kind of woo, but I’ve had some really good results when nothing else helped much. You can find lessons (called ATMs) online for free, though it’s probably more helpful to see a practitioner at first.

        • Ed Tobias says:

          Thanks, Robin. I spoke with my PT about it this morning and will be doing further investigating after the holidays. I hope your holidays are enjoyable and your new year is COVID-free.

          Ed

  3. Yvonne A says:

    Lockdown changed nothing for me. I was physically active before Covid 19 and remained just as active after. I was and am under the supervision of a clinical physiotherapist who uses a pilates based program to nurture, maintain and improve fitness. I walk whenever I can and I move around the home (sitting is just too painful and static for my restless legs). I need to move, despite the pain…

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Hi Yvonne,

      Good for you! It sounds as if you’re doing what you need to do. I thought that Pilates helped me a lot during the short time I tried it, but it’s not covered by insurance here in the U.S. I’m guessing, from your email address, that you’re in Australia. Is Pilates covered under your health system?

      Ed

  4. Heather says:

    For me, physical therapy is a must! My insurance only allows a visit once a week in person or virtually. Discipline and motivation are required to continue the exercises at home which doesn’t come easily. My MS is taking away my ability to walk so my exercises focus on strength and balance. And of course stretching. Having been a very active person, losing the ability to move easily can be a bit much! My therapist uses ultrasound for pain, massage and ends the sessions with e-stim. All seems helpful. Wish I could say I’m gaining ground! As a bonus my physical therapist can be my biggest cheerleader!

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Hi Heather,

      It sounds as if you have a great PT. MS can rob us of our mobility no matter what we do, but we need to do what we can to slow it down. I think your therapy is doing that. Are you using any disease-modifying medication, or any special diet, along with your PT?

      BTW, keeping up with the exercises at home is tough. I’m a horrible example for that but I do as much as I can, when I can. I’m sure you do more than me!

      Ed

      • Heather says:

        Thanks Ed. I use Tecfidera which despite my progression has kept me from having new lesions. In hindsight I believe I’ve been fighting this MS disease since college in the late 70’s. I try to keep a healthy diet. No dairy, local or organic food when possible, very little sugar,… Wishing you all the best!

  5. Sarah says:

    After 19 years of ms I finally gave in and went to physical therapy. Wow, what an eye opener. After a month I saw big improvements and could do simple things like the other humans that I hadn’t in 10 years. It truly opened my eyes and was a life changer!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *