Rebounding from an MS Relapse
Multiple sclerosis relapses may occur unpredictably, and sometimes, persons with MS aren’t sure whether they are having one. Generally, a relapse is defined as new or worsening MS symptoms that last for more than 24 hours that are not associated with any other illness or infection. It is important to report new symptoms to your health care provider so that the appropriate treatment can be initiated. Depending on the severity, not every relapse requires treatment with steroids, but treating early provides a better chance for quick recovery.
Just like the disease itself, relapses and recovery in MS can be highly variable. You may have a mild exacerbation or one that may require numerous changes for you. No matter the extent of relapse, it is possible for you to maintain an exercise program during and after recovery.
During a Relapse
It is important to listen to your body and your healthcare team during a relapse. You may need to cut way back on activity or completely rest during a relapse. The disease may cause temporary set backs, or some permanent changes in your body requiring a number of modifications to your lifestyle, work and home environment. If hospitalized, you may or may not be active during this time period.
It is important that your healthcare team members are monitoring your progress and adapting your former program accordingly. Increased symptoms from a urinary tract infection may subside and your current program can be resumed. If symptoms occur that are causing more functional changes, a re-evaluation may be needed currently and then again as you recover.
Symptoms such as increase in spasticity may change the way you exercise. Muscle weakness may affect your balance or strength, thereby, causing the need for changes in your weight lifting program. Decreased sensation in your feet may cause you to change the venue from walking outside in the woods to walking on a track or a treadmill. The need for a foot or ankle brace may arise. You may need to rely on a walker versus a cane, a wheelchair versus a walker. Energy conservation may be a goal of your OT intervention. Any or all of these changes may be temporary or permanent. If return to your former baseline is delayed, a new “norm” may need to be established and reworked with your PT and OT for a revised exercise program.
A New Program
As before this relapse, an exercise program will need to be tailored to fit your needs, your lifestyle and your goals. It must be something attainable and feasible to be successful. These parameters should be established with your team and modified as needed. Do not forget that you want to enjoy what you are doing!!! Staying healthy, active, strong and functional should be something to look forward to every (or most) days! This will certainly help you be successful, no matter what changes are made.