How do you Manage MS?

“Want some help?”

Everybody wants a cure for MS, to halt the progression of it, and restore the damage it causes to us. But what do you do in the meantime until those things happen?

You manage your MS effectively.

If you ask people with MS how they manage it, most would respond by saying what treatments/meds they are taking and then add that they may exercise, do yoga, etc.

While this is true, it’s only a small part of a big answer. Everything about MS is complicated: the diagnosis, the symptoms and relapses, treatments, health team support, relationships, the explanation…  ALL of these things have to be managed effectively in order to survive MS.

One who manages their MS effectively is also helping to control their symptoms, relapses and the course and thus progression of their case. Yes, let me repeat that– One who manages their MS effectively is also helping to control their symptoms, relapses and the course and thus progression of their case.

I know, and I know countless others who know. Beginning in 1980, I’ve lived with it for 34 years, and have been actively involved in the MS community for nearly thirty years. An ordinary person of moderate means, I went through motherhood, had a career I had to eventually give up, managed a household, and enjoyed life.

In a nutshell, these are the main objectives in managing MS:

1. Prevent sickness/infections, physical problems, and long-term chronic stress.
Why?  Because any of these will trigger a relapse. And relapses usually result in progression and nervous system damage.

2. Take care of  your body in all ways to be healthy.
This includes getting enough sleep, exercise, eating sensibly, managing stress, being mentally and emotionally happy, etc. This also includes things like weight watching, no smoking, etc.

Why?  Staying healthy keeps one’s resistance up to prevent getting sick (thus preventing relapses) as well as keeping symptoms from intensifying. In addition, maintaining wellness helps prevent your body from getting other serious problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, poor circulation…

3. Carefully choose and monitor your treatments.
While drugs are often helpful for treating symptoms, relapses and slowing progression of MS, there are downsides.  First, one must remember that all drugs have side effects that add stress and other impairments to the body. Second, MS is a life sentence; one may live decades until a cure is discovered to halt progression or restore damage. Every drug taken is passed though the liver and has other risks. There is not a treatment that exists today that totally halts progression, relapses, or improves symptoms.

4. Use a 2-prong approach when managing symptoms.
In addition to using medications, there are SO many ways that MS symptoms can be managed non-medicinally—pain, spasticity, bladder issues…  Often, using a combination of using medicinal and non-medicinal means together can be helpful as well. For example, I take baclofen and do stretching exercises daily to reduce my spasticity.

In addition, alternative non-medicinal therapies  have been successful like yoga, acupuncture, massage, pilates, etc. to help with symptoms.

Managing MS effectively requires a tremendous amount of knowledge and support. It’s hard, it takes time, requires change, but it works.  However, learning to managing MS is a daunting task because we know that no two MS cases are alike and the disease is so unpredictable. Furthermore, because there is so much information available from so many sources, one can become overwhelmed and confused.

Want some help?

My book “Managing MS: Straight Talk…” is now available on eBooks for only $2.99 . You can also check out my website below for oodles of info—articles/resources with links, videos, my MS blog of nearly seventy articles, my credentials… The information is accurate, easy to understand, and concise.

My personal mission is to help others dealing with MS, and these two tools—my book and my website—will definitely help you with something. There is nothing to lose, and I guarantee something to gain!

 

**Video:  “How to Manage MS: Two Tools”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iliPH66JCaw

www.DebbieMS.com
Author/MS Counselor/Living with MS

Massage Therapy: Guest Post

“Beneficial for Many Conditions”

July 27, 2012

I was approached by Melanie L. Bowen requesting me to consider a guest post for my blog. After reading the article about the benefits of using massage therapy during cancer treatment, I agreed.

When reading her article that follows, you can substitute “MS” every time the word “cancer” is used. Massage is an excellent therapy for persons with MS, giving relief for both body and soul. And this would be true for other chronic illnesses/conditions as well.

Using Massage Therapy During Cancer Treatment

Massage therapy is a growing career field, as most people love to indulge in a good massage. Those who become massage therapists usually do so in order to help people relax. What can be especially satisfying for the therapist is the knowledge that he or she is making a real difference in the life of someone who particularly needs extra special care. That person could be aged or suffering from an injury, from stress or from a chronic illness, such as cancer.

There are many complimentary therapies that can be used alongside traditional cancer treatments. Most doctors now support the use of massage therapy to ease the physical discomfort, anxiety and fatigue that often accompanies having cancer. Depending upon the type of treatment chosen and the stage of disease advancement, the physical effects may be severe.

For example, when a person is suffering from mesothelioma, the pain and stress can be quite overwhelming. Massage gives you the opportunity to help alleviate the emotional distress and physical pain often experienced with this diagnosis.

The benefits provided are numerous. Massage therapy during cancer treatment is considered an integrative intervention. Through skilled hands, you can:

• Increase the flow of blood and lymphatic fluid, helping the body to flush itself
• Ease muscle pain from spasms and built up tension and toxins
• Augment the effects of pain medication while stimulating the release of endorphins
• Decrease inflammation, edema and swelling

There are some precautions to follow while getting a massage while treating cancer. Soft tissue areas should be avoided like:

• The tumor site
• An open wound, a tear or an area of skin breakdown
• A radiation site
• An area effected with redness, pain, swelling and warmth

Current medical and professional studies now demonstrate the efficacy of massage therapy in assisting those with cancer in managing their pain, anxiety, fatigue and depression. Sadly, cancer is increasing and many of those diagnosed are going to look for complementary and alternative medical therapies and integrative interventions.

Keep in mind that there are very minor risks involved in using massage therapy during cancer treatment as long as a physician has given the green light. Massage therapy used during this time in a client’s life can truly make a difference in his or her physical comfort and mental state. Without a doubt, this is one of the most rewarding experiences that you can have.

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For MS patients receiving injections for DMA’s, the same precautions should be followed for soft tissue areas.

I was curious after reading Melanie’s article about insurance coverage for massage therapy for MS and did some research. Medicare said they will cover 80% of the cost, as long as the massage is done by a licensed massage therapist who is employed by a physical therapy facility/center. My insurance carrier, Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield, will cover 100% under the same requirement! BC/BS told me this is something they just started in 2011.

So it is worth inquiring about massage therapy with your private carrier. After all these years, it is finally getting the recognition and support it deserves from both doctors and insurance companies.

For those of us with MS, massage is not just a luxury for sore muscles, pain and spasms. It is a necessity, and certainly worth pursuing.

Thank you Melanie, for your contribution and efforts!

www.DebbieMS.com

Feet Care, Massage & Reflexology

“Sole & Soul Therapy”

July 16, 2012

It’s time for a pedicure. I like pretty toes and feet. But I love the therapeutic benefits I get from getting a pedicure.

I never had a pedicure when I lived in Pittsburgh. Shoes were always worn and I thought getting my toes painted was frivolous. Then I moved to Arizona, where the state shoe is a flip flop. That’s lucky for me since I don’t have to wrestle putting on socks and shoes too often. It’s not an easy task for someone who has stiff hands and spastic legs.

Bare feet, also a standard here, also has its benefits besides not having to struggle with footwear. It’s cooler and more comfortable, especially when my feet swell from sitting too long. I can grip the floor better when I stand or take a step or two.

Arizona is a very casual-dressing state; the oppressive desert heat in the summer probably has much to do with it. Yet, most girls and women have their feet all gussied up with color and design—even the sloppiest-looking people.

I like looking nice. Maybe that comes from my upbringing, or Eastern roots. It makes me feel good. I like to match my outfits with my earrings, purse, and footwear when I go out, even if it’s to a grocery store. Finding comfortable and stylish footwear had always been a challenge to me ever since I started having walking problems. It was great when I didn’t have to buy matching footwear anymore, but I still had to have nice-looking feet.

So it didn’t take me long after I settled in to my new home to go to a salon and get a pedicure. That’s when I discovered that a pedicure provides more besides just pretty toes. The therapeutic benefits are enormous.

For me, who has advanced MS, cutting my own toenails and polishing them is quite a challenge. I felt like Dorothy in the Emerald City that first day sitting in a massaging chair, as I watched the gal carefully scrub the bottom of my feet. It was embarrassing that my big toes were stiff like two soldiers when she got started, but she told me to just sit back and relax.

And wow, did I ever! As she cleaned and clipped, I became immersed in the chatter going on in the shop. It was fun looking at what everyone else was choosing to do with their nails—the colors, designs, and sparkles. It was a great escape and mood elevator. Where have I been all these years?

After the girl cleaned up my feet and nails, she asked if I wanted extra massage for my feet. I giggled and said “Go for it!” That is when my eyes really opened wide. I couldn’t believe how good it felt as she skillfully massaged ever toe, every part of my foot, ankles and shins. My stiff, soldier-toes were gone, my feet were aligned perfectly–not inward–and my whole body was relaxed and rejuvenated.

What was going on? Where did my back, feet and shoulder pain go? I knew how beneficial a regular body massage was for my sore neck, shoulder and back muscles, but I never expected in a million years what a foot massage would do for me.

I started researching on the internet and found out that I wasn’t getting just a foot massage; I was actually getting reflexology. I was (and still am) going to a Vietnamese-run shop where the girls were trained to do this. I just didn’t know it because of the language gap—they speak very little English.

The foot has more than 7,200 nerve endings that connect to specific organs, according to the Reflexology Association of America. The top of the foot corresponds to the chest, the Achilles corresponds to the side of the hip, and the big toe links to the brain. Massage and reflexology techniques bring comfort and restore proper nerve flow. Hm– is this the reason why my big toes weren’t standing at attention anymore?

It is a form of alternative medicine. It doesn’t reduce my need for baclofen that I take for spasticity, but it definitely helps my spasticity and is a complementary approach for my bothersome MS symptoms.

I wish I could get a pedicure every week, but our budget won’t allow it. And unfortunately, other forms of alternative medicine such as massage, acupuncture, or yoga are not covered by insurance. But I consider it enough of a necessity to get one (with massage/reflexology) once a month. Fortunately, the shop where I go only charges $25 (plus tip). And gift certificates for birthdays and Christmas are always appreciated.

Relaxation, good company, energized well-being, less pain and pretty toes–all for $25-30 and an hour of time. I think it is a great bang for the buck.

P.S. I should mention that although the shop is filled mostly with women, it’s not unusual to see a guy or two in there as well :).

www.DebbieMS.com