All members of ActiveMSers get a series of insightful e-mails on how to live your very best life with MS. Some of those letters get such huge applause that they need to be shared beyond membership. This is one—four things you must do if you have MS. Today. Dave enlightens.
It’s your pal, Dave. Yeah, that guy from ActiveMSers who bugs you every now and then, like that darn annoying jingle that randomly pops into your head and WILL NOT leave you alone. Well, sorry. We’re in this together and my job is to get you off your duff (or away from that computer screen or smart phone, as the case may be). So I’ll cut to the chase. It may sometimes feel as if you have no control over your multiple sclerosis. Well, that is just wrong. But before you can start running, you need to take a SEAT. That’s right, I’m telling everyone with multiple sclerosis to take a SEAT. I know, that sounds counterintuitive, like putting peanut butter on your celery. Seriously, who other than your mother thought that that was a good idea. But if you have to gag down raw celery, it’s shockingly not half bad. Ack, I’m getting sidetracked.
These are the four most important things you can do to for your relapse remitting multiple sclerosis. If you have progressive disease, I’ll let the T slide a bit (although new treatments exist that help may help somewhat), but you still should SEA. Yeah, it’s not as catchy, but go with me here.
Stretch. Stretching every day, better yet several times a day, is critical to combat spasticity, says our resident physical therapist and renowned MS expert Dr. Ken Seaman. “You can lose muscle mass for long periods of time, yet still regain strength years later. You can lose aerobic capacity for long periods of time, yet regain heart fitness within months. However, should you truly lose range of motion in your joints for an extended period of time, it may be impossible to regain full movement without some form of drastic intervention.” So read our guide and start a stretching program.
Exercise. While strength and aerobic workouts consistently demonstrate across-the-board improvements in quality of life for MSers, there’s much more to this than a better QOL. Not only can strength and core training help with everything from better balance to less fatigue to improved muscle tone, new research suggests that cardiovascular exercise in particular may have an effect on the disease itself. Aerobically fit MSers tend to have less brain atrophy and fewer cognitive issues (one study saw a 50% improvement in memory!). And researchers have confirmed it is the one intervention that can reliably decrease fatigue multiple sclerosis. Read our exercise guide to get started (or keep going).
Adapt. When you’ve got a disease like MS, you’ve certainly got to make some adjustments, some little and some big, there’s just no getting around it. You need to accept that you have a disease that needs your full attention, adapt to this disease with every curve ball it throws, and adopt an attitude that you can do this. You can do this—you can definitely do this.
Treat. Finally, taking a disease modifying therapy (DMTs) is essential to reducing relapses, slowing the accumulation of brain lesions, and delaying disability. Statistically, most studies show that MSers do better on meds than without—particularly those with high efficacy—and may significantly delay secondary progressive disease, the slow-burn phase of MS that is immensely challenging to treat. Fortunately, there is a wealth of options to choose from, with many more in the research pipeline. Thinking of going drug free? Please read this first. I only ask that you resist hating on me when you are finished—I just care about you and your health.
While stretching, exercising, adapting and taking a DMT won't guarantee that you personally will do better, it puts the odds heavily in your favor. And the sooner you start the better. So take a SEAT and then go, go, go! Be active, stay fit and keep exploring!