Physiotherapy, also known as physical therapy, helps patients to maintain or improve motor abilities that have been affected by injury, age, illness, or disability. A physiotherapist works closely with the patient and suggests exercises to help restore movement, balance, and posture.
Used for a wide range of neuromuscular, neurological, cardiovascular, and respiratory conditions, physiotherapy exercises can help reduce pain, increase freedom of movement, and minimize the risk of injury.
Physiotherapy for multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder wherein the body’s own immune system attacks the protective covering (myelin sheath) around the nerve fibers, mistaking it for a foreign entity. The loss of the myelin sheath results in improper conduction of nerve impulses and can eventually cause permanent damage to nerve fibers.
Physiotherapy may help alleviate some of the symptoms of MS, including numbness, fatigue, difficulties in performing voluntary movements, and tremors. It is highly individualized based on the patient’s strengths and weaknesses, which determine the intensity, frequency, and duration of the exercises prescribed. The physiotherapist will educate the patient on simple exercises that can be performed at home under the supervision of family or friends.
Physiotherapy exercises for patients with MS
Patients with MS often show reduced aerobic capacity, loss of muscle strength, reduced endurance, and improper balance. The right exercises can improve overall fitness and performance in daily activities. Some recommended physiotherapy exercises for patients with MS are summarized below.
Low to moderate aerobic training can help patients with symptoms of fatigue, improving their cardiovascular fitness, mood, and quality of life. Patients with fatigue and mild to moderate disability can also do aerobic exercise, with the intensity determined by a physiotherapist who takes into account their current fitness levels.
Strength and endurance training
Strength and endurance training help to maintain bone and muscle mass. In particular, strength training can increase muscle strength in the lower limbs, and thereby helps patients with proper movement and posture.
Muscle stiffness and rigidity are a common symptom of MS. Therefore, exercises such as yoga and stretching at the early stages of the disease is advisable. Flexibility exercises help to reduce rigidity, enhance range of motion in joints, and improve balance and posture. Yoga has also been shown to reduce depression in MS patients.
Motor imagery is a technique of imagining or simulating an action in the mind without actually performing the movement. It has been shown that motor imagery can help improve walking speed, walking distance, and quality of life.
Hippotherapy uses horseback riding to improve a patient’s balance, mobility, and posture. The natural gait and movement of a horse provides sensory stimulation for its rider, who improves his or her muscle coordination as a result. This therapy has also been shown to boost the emotional state of patients.
Performing aquatic exercises has certain benefits compared with exercising on land. The properties of water — such as buoyancy, viscosity, hydrostatic pressure, and temperature — provide support for limbs, facilitate a greater range of motion, and improve muscle strength. Aquatic exercises require less effort than those on land and also have the advantage of helping to reduce depression and stress.
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