Many people with MS have some difficulties with walking. Often it is one of the first symptoms to be noticed, for example, if someone is stumbling or tripping more than before. However, these difficulties are common to a number of medical conditions and may not be caused by MS so it is important to get advice from a health professional.
Walking problems vary considerably from one person with MS to another. Common difficulties are:
- Unsteadiness on walking or turning
- Slower, shorter steps
- Less confidence
- Needing support from walls, furniture or other people
- Tripping and stumbling
- A heavy feeling in the legs when stepping forward
- Weakness of the leg when weight is on it
- Difficulty placing the foot on the ground
A symptom called foot drop or dropped foot can be experienced by some people with MS.
In MS, many of these problems are initially caused by the slowed or altered nerve conduction, which results in muscle weakness, spasm or spasticity (muscle stiffness) and sensory changes. However, other MS symptoms can have a large impact on walking, such as difficulties with balance, pain, tremor, dizziness and visual problems. For example, vision that is double, blurred or has altered depth perception can make it difficult to place your feet or judge steps and kerbs.
The best way forward depends on what is causing the walking difficulties. A health professional, such as a GP, MS nurse or physiotherapist can advise. Treatment may involve physiotherapy or drug treatments to alleviate specific underlying symptoms such as spasticity.
Last updated: December 2017
Last reviewed: May 2014
This page will be reviewed within three years