A to Z of MS
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A to Z of MS Balance
Multiple sclerosis can affect balance in a number of ways, both directly and indirectly.
There are a number of MS symptoms that can worsen balance and increase the risk of falling. These include muscle stiffness spasticity and spasms, weakness and numbness, tremor, pain, visual problems and fatigue.
Balance problems can also be caused by interruptions to the communication between the brain and the rest of the body. If the brain says move but the message doesn't reach the leg, this can result in a fall.
Sensory problems may affect the way in which someone walks and thus affect their balance. For example, numbness can reduce an individual's perception of the way their feet are touching the ground, or over-sensitive feet may mean that someone is more tentative in the way they walk.
MS can also cause dizziness and vertigo. This can make it difficult to remain upright, unsupported, even when standing still.
Because there are a number of factors which can affect balance, it is important that balance problems are investigated thoroughly by a physiotherapist or other health professional. They can then suggest treatments which may include drugs, exercises and equipment or adaptations to improve balance.
Balance problems can be managed to some extent by being aware of factors that make balance worse and being aware of potential factors that might increase the risk of a fall. These issues are discussed in the MS Trust's book Falls: managing the ups and downs of MS.