Are You Prepared for a Fall?

Jennifer (Jenn) Powell avatar

by Jennifer (Jenn) Powell |

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Heat Sensitivity in MS | Main graphic for column titled

I sit amid the flood of carpet stain remover. My left leg is elongated as my right leg is at a jackknife. The cool of the fluid penetrates my sweats. Shock dissipates into pain. I try to move, but pain sears down toward my tailbone.

I sit in the dark of my tiny laundry room. My head rests on the rim of the washing machine. I catch my reflection in time to watch a tear fall from my eye.

Falling with MS

I fall more than I care to admit. I rarely hurt myself unless you count a bruised ego. Given the frequency, one fall isn’t bad. But it isn’t good, either. A fall is a fall. If they occur regularly, it is time for a change.

Writing in MS Focus Magazine, neurologist Michelle H. Cameron, MD, PT, noted that most of her patients have balance issues and fall and injure themselves often. About half of those with MS have fallen once in the past six months, and one-third have fallen several times each month during that period, she wrote.

More than half of people with MS have been injured during a fall, she added.

This is a frightening reality that is all too familiar for me.

The fall is only the beginning

I frequently use the Jacuzzi for short durations. The heat quells some of the more severe bone pain in my legs. Our rule is that I only take them when my husband is within earshot.

I shuffle when I am tired. My foot drop is ardently difficult. I swing it to create momentum.

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Foot Drop in MS

In the dark, I follow our brick path to the Jacuzzi. I know this path by heart. With only the moon for light, I do not see the two-by-four that juts out from the lounge chair. The wood meets my metatarsal bones with force. With my towel on the path, I lie naked on the lounge. I am suddenly grateful for our house rule.

My fifth metatarsal did not heal. I endured a painful surgery, bone graft, and weeks of immobility instead. This surgery and subsequent recovery did not have to happen.

Know your MS

My MS is different than yours. The way my disease presents is unique. My gait and balance are affected by the location of my lesions. When I am tired, both issues are worse. I frequently stub my toe, bump into things, stagger, and sometimes fall.

I know this and prepare the best I can. I carry a portable cane and cooling towel. I utilize my handicapped placard to minimize the distance I walk. I wear shoes that are conducive to my needs. I meet my needs the best that I can.

Some of the medications I take affect mobility. Even when I feel stable, I respect that my body may not be. Pain medications and muscle relaxers lessen my stability. I do not use the stairs after I’ve taken medication. I do my best to stay in bed. I prepare my nightstand with water, an iPad, my cellphone, cellphone cord, books, glasses, and anything else.

Do your best

Even the best-laid plans can fail. Hence, my recent fall. But as with life, it is not how many times you fall, but how many times you get up. And I will always get up.


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.


Richard Leakey avatar

Richard Leakey

I have fallen about five times over the last few years and hurt myself each time. Mainly ribs. Diagnosed in 2008 with benign MS, I fall when excessively exhausted. One foot steps on the other then I try and move the other and over I go uncontrollably! I have learnt not to get excessively tired in the legs and lose feeling in legs, also to use a stick and walls when moving and to exercise my arms to keep them strong. Don't put weight on either! Where is my MS going tho! I struggle to walk any distance so is it still benign? How do I check? My lesions were mainly on my spine in 2008. Is it worth getting another MRI and LumbR Puncture? Will I have to Pay?

Ben Hofmeister avatar

Ben Hofmeister

Falling frequently was part of what sent me on my search for a diagnosis, but until the last 2 years, I wasn't that concerned. I took great pride in the fact that years of parachuting in the army had made me something of an expert at falling down without hurting myself. Unfortunately (or ironically?) MS spacticity took my ability to "tuck and roll" and for the first time in a long time, I had to not just be concerned about being injured in a fall, but how I'd get back up after. When I started using a wheelchair full time 2 years ago and my abilities decreased, the worry about falling did too. Can't walk, can't fall.....right?

I've had an intrathecal baclofen pump for about 10 months now and as my spacticity free legs and torso get stronger and I begin to move more and transfer better, I am suddenly thinking of falling and getting back up again after. Most instructional videos online are tailored towards paraplegics or amputees with full upper body strength. How do you fall and get back up and into a chair, etc with an upper body that varies in strength and ability randomly throughout the day? My physical therapists are helping me figure it all out. We'll get there I'm sure.

rose stewart avatar

rose stewart

seems i fall about 1x a week,i get so tired about 3 ,and thats it i cant walk.makes me sick, i was a walker.walked fast. now went from a cane to walker and schoter and do have a wheel chair.i hate this and im sure you all do. and i no you say like i do IF I ONLY NEW rose

John avatar


I fall often. Learn how to roll with it. Slow down.

Cindy Winters avatar

Cindy Winters

Having lived with MS for 30 years, I have constantly minimized my disability. When asked if I had fallen recently, I said I just leaned too far. Asked if I changed planes (the definition of a fall), I had to reply yes. Too many falls!
I happened to catch a video on YouTube that said as you get older, you will fall. Learn how to do it correctly.
Basically I was shown how to tuck, curl and relax always protecting my head.
Might sound a little complex, but is amazing how much it has helped.

Tom Anderson avatar

Tom Anderson

Analyze what you have got and don't assume it is MS. Yes, my gait changed years ago (after a relapse), [I could no longer run] and over time, stressed my arches which had been about flat since birth, with no issues. Hadn't thought about them until recently, when pain finally became very severe and a foot specialist said PTTD (nothing to do with MS). Could have avoided that (the total arch collapse), but didn't. I always thought pain and discomfort were my MS when I experienced that slightly, in the beginning. Haven't fallen yet but trip and stumble all the time. I am slowly learning to manage the PTTD, but it is complicated by spasms and spasticity from MS. Manage the latter, and I can manage the first.

Leanne Broughton avatar

Leanne Broughton

I have started falling this past year. Tore the ligaments in my left ankle. This greatly affected my ability to exercise. My balance is poor and I find myself unintentually leaning forward or backwards. I grab walls, furniture, counters, my walker just to save myself from going down. My husband asks what I am doing-I say falling. Maybe he gets it now.


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