Multiple sclerosis (MS) involves an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS).
MS symptoms are variable and unpredictable. No two people have exactly the same symptoms, and each person’s symptoms can change or fluctuate over time. One person might experience only one or two of the possible symptoms while another person experiences many more.
More common symptoms
Occurs in about 80% of people, can significantly interfere with the ability to function at home and work, and may be the most prominent symptom in a person who otherwise has minimal activity limitations.
Walking (Gait) Difficulties
Related to several factors including weakness, spasticity, loss of balance, sensory deficit and fatigue, and can be helped by physical therapy, assistive therapy and medications.
Numbness or Tingling
Numbness of the face, body, or extremities (arms and legs) is often the first symptom experienced by those eventually diagnosed as having MS.
Refers to feelings of stiffness and a wide range of involuntary muscle spasms; can occur in any limb, but it is much more common in the legs.
Weakness in MS, which results from deconditioning of unused muscles or damage to nerves that stimulate muscles, can be managed with rehabilitation strategies and the use of mobility aids and other assistive devices.
The first symptom of MS for many people. Onset of blurred vision, poor contrast or color vision, and pain on eye movement can be frightening — and should be evaluated promptly.
Dizziness and Vertigo
People with MS may feel off balance or lightheaded, or — much less often — have the sensation that they or their surroundings are spinning (vertigo).
Bladder dysfunction, which occurs in at least 80% of people with MS, can usually be managed quite successfully with medications, fluid management, and intermittent self-catheterization.
Very common in the general population including people with MS. Sexual responses can be affected by damage in the central nervous system, as well by symptoms such as fatigue and spasticity, and by psychological factors.
Constipation is a particular concern among people with MS, as is loss of control of the bowels. Bowel issues can typically be managed through diet, adequate fluid intake, physical activity and medication.
Pain syndromes are common in MS. In one study, 55% of people with MS had "clinically significant pain" at some time, and almost half had chronic pain.
Refers to a range of high-level brain functions affected in more than 50% of people with MS, including the ability to process incoming information, learn and remember new information, organize and problem-solve, focus attention and accurately perceive the environment.
Can be a reaction to the stresses of living with MS as well as the result of neurologic and immune changes. Significant depression, mood swings, irritability, and episodes of uncontrollable laughing and crying pose significant challenges for people with MS and their families.
Studies have suggested that clinical depression — the severest form of depression — is among the most common symptoms of MS. It is more common among people with MS than it is in the general population or in persons with many other chronic, disabling conditions.
Managing MS is an ongoing process, beginning with the very first symptoms and continuing throughout the disease course. It’s never too soon or too late to think about how to access high quality, comprehensive, interdisciplinary care
Treatments for MS attacks
Corticosteroids, such as oral prednisone and intravenous methylprednisolone, are prescribed to reduce nerve inflammation. Side effects may include insomnia, increased blood pressure, mood swings and fluid retention.
Plasma exchange (plasmapheresis). The liquid portion of part of your blood (plasma) is removed and separated from your blood cells. The blood cells are then mixed with a protein solution (albumin) and put back into your body. Plasma exchange may be used if your symptoms are new, severe and haven't responded to steroids.
Treatments to modify progression
For primary-progressive MS, ocrelizumab (Ocrevus) is the only FDA-approved disease-modifying therapy. It slows worsening of disability in people with this type of MS.
For relapsing-remitting MS, several disease-modifying therapies are available.
Much of the immune response associated with MS occurs in the early stages of the disease. Aggressive treatment with these medications as early as possible can lower the relapse rate and slow the formation of new lesions.
Many of the disease-modifying therapies used to treat MS carry significant health risks. Selecting the right therapy for you will depend on careful consideration of many factors, including duration and severity of disease, effectiveness of previous MS treatments, other health issues, cost, and child-bearing status.
Treatments for MS signs and symptoms
Physical therapy session
Physical therapy. A physical or occupational therapist can teach you stretching and strengthening exercises and show you how to use devices to make it easier to perform daily tasks.
Physical therapy along with the use of a mobility aid when necessary can also help manage leg weakness and other gait problems often associated with MS.
Muscle relaxants. You may experience painful or uncontrollable muscle stiffness or spasms, particularly in your legs. Muscle relaxants such as baclofen (Lioresal) and tizanidine (Zanaflex) may help.
Medications to reduce fatigue.
Other medications. Medications also may be prescribed for depression, pain, sexual dysfunction, and bladder or bowel control problems that are associated with MS.
Ayurvedic treatments for the conditions associated with MS may include the following:
panchakarma physical therapies
marma point therapies
The marmas are “vulnerable regions” or “sensitive regions” that emerge from the nadis and distribute and regulate Prana from the chakras and nadis. They can be perceived in the physical body as sensitive points or regions. Marma points represent the physical manifestation of energies which originate in the chakras and nadis.
One of the main purposes of Ayurvedic massage is to promote proper flow through the various marma regions. This flow can be disrupted by various factors including a disruption of the doshas. In addition to massage, marma point therapy is a distinct form of treatment used to treat a variety of disorders.
There are many herbal medicines currently in use for the treatment of MS related symptoms. Specific herbal and mineral preparations are carefully gathered and prepared which improve both nervous and muscular function according to Ayurvedic tradition. These botanicals came to range from simple spices used as food supplements to sophisticated herbal/mineral preparations requiring much time and specialized knowledge. Examples of plants/preparations used include: ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), bala (Sida cordifolia), and trailokya rasa chintamani, among others.
self massage training
The Ayurvedic technique of abhyanga self massage is unique in that it addresses both daily rhythms and seasonal rhythms. It is not only an important aspect of one’s daily rituals which nourishes the skin and underlying tissues, improves circulation, improves flexibility, stimulates immunity, and prevents stiffness, but it also is a stabilizing and coherent influence on the nervous energies of the MS patient.
The specific abhyanga technique differs from the standard one and balances all three doshas with particular attention to the Vata dosha. It helps regulate the appetite, strengthens the entire body, nourishes the musculature, returns luster to the skin (often diminished in MS), and truly promotes well-being.
Our health largely depends on how well we nourish ourselves. We derive nourishment by extracting energies encoded in food substances and transforming them into our own biological energies.
Vata-regulating Sattvic foods are absolutely required for all MS patients. These are foods abundant in prana, another word for “life force”. The ancient criteria for foods to be considered sattvic were quite simple: foods were to be grown on good soil, far removed from waste sites, protected from animals, have an attractive and normal appearance, and be harvested at the correct time.
Today we must add these modern criteria: Sattvic foods should be grown without pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, hormones, enzymes, irradiation, genetic manipulation, or anything unnatural. Foods should be whole foods and be as unrefined as possible. Minor processes are permissible if they do not deplete foods of their prana.
individualized yoga training
A slow, non-vigorous asana practice which is closely coordinated with the breathing is the best. The practice should be evenly balanced on the left and right sides as well as the front and back. Sudden and abrupt changes of positions should be avoided.The evolution of a Vata excess in MS is that is normally first accumulates in the locus of Apana Vata which is in the colon. From there it spreads through the srotas (channels) to the muscle of the back, the bones of the spine, the heart, and the nervous system including the brain.
Meditation is a way to achieve this integration and balance. The human mind is an arena of conflicting urges and emotions which thwart the cultivation of any real, sustained health, peace and happiness. The ancient Hindus, who were concerned with contemplation and penetration of the ultimate secrets of life, discovered the utility of the regular and persistent practice of meditation. Mantras are given to each individual in an initiation ceremony according to special astrological calculations as well as consideration of the individual’s mental energies, family life, activities, and other factors.
customized exercise program
Apart from the regular practice of Yoga asanas, treadmill, stationary bike, and other gentle aerobic types of exercise have been shown to be effective in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. If properly individualized exercise can help improve autonomic control of heart rate and arterial blood pressure, cardiorespiratory fitness, skeletal muscle function, and symptom instability under thermal stress.