Fee was diagnosed with MS over 10 years ago. Here she tells us how her daily strength, balance and stretch exercises help with her MS symptoms.
Hi, I’m Fee. As I am writing this, I realised it must be over 10 years now since I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS (RRMS). After I had an MRI scan I was told there were numerous lesions but it could be a one-off episode or MS. I’d been having symptoms since my teens and seen dozens of doctors so after being told about the lesions, MS made sense. After further tests, it was actually a relief to finally get a diagnosis.
The MS Trust helped me, over time, feel empowered with the information I needed to get my head around it. Sadly, it doesn’t get easier, but I think you re-evaluate what’s important and I adjusted my life and my priorities to keep going.
My main symptoms without a doubt are fatigue, pain, anxiety, stiffness and weakness, particularly in my legs but I try and stay active to help with those symptoms; it is so important for anyone to stay active (and do stretches!), but with MS, if you are able, I honestly believe it is vital.
About two years ago, I had a bad relapse which left me unable to walk more than about 20 metres. I had also become a new mum so it was a worrying time. I spoke to my MS specialist nurse who referred me to a neuro-physio where I learned a variety of strength, balance and stretch exercises which I now do at least once daily and walk a short distance around the block or even just in the garden every day with my cheeky monkey, who definitely keeps me active too as you can imagine!
I still have significant problems walking far but the distance I am able to walk in one go has improved massively and I have set specific goals to be able to walk further whether it be independently, with my walking stick or rollator
My physio spoke to me about neuroplasticity which I have a keen interest in as a musician and from learning about music therapy and memory for neurodisability too. Neuroplasticity basically allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment - so you can sort of retrain your brain. It won’t be as good as before and won’t happen overnight but with determination and commitment, it is still possible.
The improvements to my ability to balance have been remarkable and even my wellbeing in general is better, with a sense of accomplishment after doing my exercises. I still have significant problems walking far but the distance I am able to walk in one go has improved massively and I have set specific goals to be able to walk further whether it be independently, with my walking stick or rollator. I also aim to keep improving my general fitness, which is so important, by going to a weekly swimming/exercise session for people with mobility issues and their families.
It can be quite daunting to know where to start but speaking to your MS nurse is a good place, if neuro-physio interests you. A physio might even be able to advise on other resources near you. If this isn’t an option or in addition, the MS Trust has a lot of information and a fantastic site where you can create your own exercise regime to suit.
Set yourself a goal which is challenging for you but realistic as you will then be more likely to stick to and achieve it and try not to worry about what anybody else might be able to do. Everybody with MS is different. Focus on what you can do to stay active. Even if it’s just a small amount - it will make a difference.
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