World Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Day

World MS Day is a day to celebrate global solidarity and hope for the future, for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS). On the 30th of May, the global MS community come together to share stories, raise awareness and campaign with everyone affected by multiple sclerosis. The 2020-2023 theme for World MS Day is ‘connections’, including community connections, self-connections and connections to quality care. The goal is to challenge the social barriers that leave people affected by MS feeling socially isolated and create a strong support network within these communities. Together we can advocate for better services, celebrate support networks and support self-care.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. The disease causes an auto-immune response, where the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the myelin around the nerves. Myelin is the protective layer that surrounds nerve fibres and allows the nerve to transmit impulses quickly and smoothly. When myelin is lost or damaged this can impair the transmission of nerve impulses throughout the body and leads to increasing disability.

The onset of symptoms typically occurs between the ages of 20 and 40 years, but can develop at any age. This may include muscle weakness, walking impairments and balance problems, spasticity, fatigue, cognitive impairment and lower cardiovascular fitness. The progression of the disease, severity and specific symptoms of MS varies from person to person, depending on which part of the CNS is affected and to what degree.

There is currently no cure for MS, however there are many treatments available to help reduce relapses and the severity of the symptoms. After being diagnosed, a personalised management plan will be developed, including any medications, treatments or lifestyle modifications. This often includes starting a regular exercise routine.

What are the benefits of exercise for people with Multiple Sclerosis?

Regular exercise plays an important role in the treatment of MS, as it can help to manage symptoms, slow the progression of the disease and improve quality of life. There is strong evidence to suggest that performing strength training and aerobic exercise 2-3 times per week, is safe to complete (initially within a supervised environment) and has many benefits to your overall health, including:

– Reducing MS fatigue

– Increasing cardiovascular fitness

– Improving joint mobility/flexibility and reduce muscle stiffness or spasticity

– Improving or maintain muscle strength and tone

– Improving balance and reduce falls risk

– Improving functional capacity and maintain independence

– Stabilising mood and reduce stress

– Providing an opportunity for social interaction and support

– Reducing the risk of developing other conditions, including: heart disease, obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis

If you are living with MS, it is recommended that you seek advice from an accredited exercise professional and check with your doctor or healthcare team, prior to commencing exercise. An Exercise Physiologist will conduct an initial assessment to determine what type of exercise is suitable, identify any symptoms which may impact your ability to complete exercise and test your current capacity, in order to tailor a program to your specific goals and needs. To find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist in your area, check out: https://www.essa.org.au/find-aep/.

For more information visit https://worldmsday.org, to help change the future and find your #MSconnections

By Emily Scutter