MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS AND FATIGUE
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to interfere with the way our brain sends messages to our body. The brain sends messages that travel along axons, which are protected by a myelin sheath. In multiple sclerosis, the immune system causes inflammation to this protective layer, which can cause scar tissue to build up along the pathway, causing difficulties sending the correct messages to the body.
Multiple sclerosis can cause many symptoms. The symptoms may change over time as the disease progresses. One of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis is fatigue.
There is a high level of evidence for non-pharmacological interventions when managing fatigue including energy conservation and exercise-based interventions.
HOW DOES ENERGY CONSERVATION HELP?
Getting dressed in the morning can be exhausting! It can be extremely frustrating if you don’t have the energy to do anything else during the day, or if you can’t even make it through your morning routine. But there are little life hacks that can make your life just a little easier. These strategies are called energy conservation. Energy conservation refers to completing tasks in the most energy efficient way. It involves planning out your day and prioritizing the activities that are important to you.
As an OT, I’ve devoted my life to preaching about the importance of doing the activities that are meaningful to an individual. This is going to look differently for everyone, so it’s going to take some soul searching to look at what activities you love and why you love them. For some people, having the ability to complete their morning routine is everything. Some people are motivated by creative endeavors or exercise. As we go through life and our abilities and priorities change, we all need to re-evaluate the best ways to implement the things we find meaningful and life giving.
If you love gardening, but aren’t able to do it in the same way, think about what it is that gives you life. How can you meet that need in a different way? Can you simplify your morning routine or skip it so that you have more energy? Can you plant and care for a potted plant or raised flower bed? Are there adaptive gardening tools that would make holding onto things easier? Sometimes, looking at what is meaningful brings up a lot more questions before it gives any answers, but having a specific long-term goal to focus on is beneficial to improve quality of life.
ENERGY CONSERVATION TIPS AND TRICKS
MAKE A PLAN: Make a list of the activities you need to do throughout the week. Include dressing, bathing, meals, laundry, cleaning, leisure activities (watching tv is okay, but try to think of one other activity that brings a smile to your face), and anything else that is important to you.
ASK QUESTIONS: Do you need to bathe everyday? Are there services available and within my budget to help with meals, laundry, cleaning? Do I have more energy in the morning or night? Do I get enough sleep? Is it possible to spread out responsibilities?
TAKE IT EASY: Sit when you can (use a shower chair and sit while bathing, get all your clothes together and sit down to get dressed, put your underwear and pants on your feet before standing up, sit when doing food prep or folding laundry).
PACE YOURSELF: You don’t have to do it all at once. Take breaks. If showering is exhausting, rest before putting your clothes on.
You can find more energy conservation tips here.
EXERCISE TO MANAGE FATIGUE
You might think that exercise would be the opposite of conserving energy, but it can also be effective at managing the impact of fatigue. It’s all about balance. The most important thing is to not overdo it.
Find an activity that you might enjoy: walking, aquatic exercises, chair yoga, resistive training with theraband. Finding something you like will help keep you motivated.
Take things slow. Warm up with stretches.
Make sure you’re safe. Use proper body mechanics when exercising. Take precautions if you’re prone to falls.
Make sure to check in with your physician or therapist prior to starting an exercise routine!
Hourihan, S. J. (2015). Managing fatigue in adults with multiple sclerosis. Nursing Standard (2014+), 29(43), 51. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.7748/ns.29.43.51.e9654
Khan, F., Amatya, B., & Galea, M. (2014). Management of fatigue in persons with multiple sclerosis. Frontiers in neurology, 5, 177. doi:10.3389/fneur.2014.00177 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4163985/
Feinstein, A., Freeman, J., & Lo, A. C. (2015). Treatment of progressive multiple sclerosis: What works, what does not, and what is needed. The Lancet Neurology, 14(2), 194-207. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1474-4422(14)70231-5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25772898
All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Reliance on any information provided by the NEOFECT website is solely at your own risk.
- Clarice Torrey, OTR/LClarice is an occupational therapist, product designer, and health writer based out of San Francisco, CA. Clarice works for RAD Camp as a Community and Product Manager.