Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is classified as a chronic medical condition and often a disabling disease of the central nervous system that strikes between two and five million people worldwide.
In Australia, more than 25,600 Australians have been diagnosed with MS, with an average of 10 new people per week being diagnosed every year.Nearly 3 quarters of these cases are in women with Multiple Sclerosis, now considered the leading cause of disability for young adults aged 15 to 40 years old in Australia, and on average, there's a new case every day. Multiple Sclerosis primarily affects women between the ages of 20 and 40, and its prevalence has been increasing in recent years.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic central nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The nerves start to die off because of events, including the body's immune system attacking healthy tissue in the brain.
Multiple Sclerosis negatively affects the protective coating around nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The coating, called myelin, is essential for healthy nerve function. Myelin acts as an insulating layer around the nerves, allowing them to communicate with one another quickly and effectively.
There are a variety of symptoms and effects that are associated with Multiple Sclerosis, which can affect different parts of the body and change over time.
Myelin impairment is the hallmark of multiple Sclerosis. As multiple Sclerosis progresses, damage to nerves spreads beyond their myelin coating to other areas of the central nervous system.
The disease has multiple causes, including genetics and the environment; however, there are still a lot of unknowns about MS, and it's a disease that continues to grow in complexity as more research is conducted.
Multiple Sclerosis, also known as MS, is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system.
The overall definitive causes of Multiple Sclerosis are unknown, and there is no cure, but medical treatment can help manage the disease.
Some people with MS relapse in phases, while others remain stable. While it is unknown what causes MS, researchers believe it is a combination of genetics and wider environmental factors (such as viruses or toxic chemicals and substances) that triggers the disease.
These factors can also affect a person differently according to their age, sex, and ethnicity.
Science and research currently recognize 3 different types of MS as follows:
Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS)
RRMS is, by far, the most prevalent type of MS. It is characterised by clearly defined attacks, followed by periods of complete or partial recovery, referred to as remission or non-active periods.
When there are no symptoms- no further progression happens in their disease, and it remains non-active or inactive. RRMS is different from other types of MS in that 85% of people with this form have a relapsing pattern the first time they are diagnosed. In contrast, around 15% have primary progressive onset at diagnosis without previous relapses or episodes during a long period beforehand.
Secondary progressive MS (SPMS)
This variation of MS is diagnosed when an initial relapsing-remitting phase is followed by a 'progressive' stage in which the disease progresses and continues to worsen. Attacks, with partial recoveries, may continue throughout this time. The process of changing a diagnosis from RRMS to SPMS can be difficult for both the patient and their specialist medical team because it does not follow a predetermined path and is difficult to determine. For most patients, the process can take many frustrating years.
Primary progressive MS (PPMS)
Primary progressive MS is a type of multiple Sclerosis that starts out gradually worsening and doesn't have periods of complication or episodes. It is a gradual worsening and deterioration in one's health and mobility. PPMS usually develops when people over 40 years old are diagnosed with the disease. Still, there are also cases in younger adults. 10-15% of people who get MS will be diagnosed with PPMS.
Who is more likely to suffer from MS?
There is no one specific risk factor for multiple Sclerosis.
Multiple Sclerosis occurs when the immune system attacks the protective sheath around nerve fibers in the central nervous system called myelin.
Many possible causes for MS have been proposed, including genetics, the environment, and abnormal immune responses.
While there are still so many unknown facts and determinates about MS, we do know that it's a disease that continues to grow in complexity as more research is conducted.
However, there are a few certain risk factors that may increase your overall risk of developing the disease.
• Being female
• Being age 40 or older
• Having a family history of MS
• Environmental exposures such as near-uplifting electromagnetic fields
• Infection with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
• Exposure to toxic chemicals and compounds such as pesticides and heavy metals.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis vary so widely among people who have the condition, and the symptoms can come and go in differing severities throughout a person's lifetime.
However, specific symptoms are more common than others.
Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic disease that causes symptoms such as:
• Muscle pain
• Impaired balance
• Impaired memory
• Sleep disturbances
These symptoms may develop gradually, or they may come on suddenly. They can also come back or remit throughout a lifetime.
Fatigue - One of the most reported and prevalent symptoms of MS is fatigue, which is the feeling of being tired all the time. Extreme fatigue can be caused by an underactive immune system or an overactive one. Fatigue can also be a symptom of many other diseases but is specifically prominent in MS sufferers.
Sensory Impairments - Sensory issues associated with Multiple Sclerosis can include:
• Blurred or double vision
• Changes in in-depth perception
• Partial sight loss
• Pins and needles
• Heat or cold discomfort
Pain - Some people with MS experience pain, which can come in many different forms. It can be a burning sensation that shoots through your legs, a tight sensation in your head, back, or arms and shoulders. Some people experience pain only in their legs or arms; others equally experience both legs and arms. Pain from MS can range in intensity from a mild tingle to a debilitating electric shock.
Limitation of movement - Limitation of movement is when physical activities that used to be easy no longer seem worth the effort. This can be due to the pain experienced upon movement, exhaustion, or simply that it seems too big of a task.
Cognitive Issues - Cognitive symptoms can include difficulties experiencing 'brain fog,' impaired memory retention, and focus concentration. It may also be experienced in not being able to process differentials in speed or ability and impaired overall cognitive function.
Motor control difficulties- This can include difficulty walking, struggling with balance and coordination, experiencing muscle spasms or tremors, and muscle weakness. Motor control issues may also appear in the patient by the slurring of speech, and swallowing difficulties may also be present. Dizziness or vertigo are possible as well.
Constipation - Is a very common for sufferers of MS. The disease can interrupt the messages nerves send to and from the brain that signal that it's time for a bowel movement. MS can also keep pelvic floor muscles from relaxing, which helps your body get rid of stool.
When it comes to managing the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), there are numerous medical and non-medical ways to manage this chronic condition, from medication to lifestyle changes.
A 2010 study revealed that water therapy to be a highly valuable tool that can help manage the symptoms of MS and improve the quality of life. Many people with MS find that water therapy is one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to stay physically active. The buoyancy of water, offsets body weight, helps support your limbs, making them feel lighter, there is no fear of falling or coordination issues. Water also provides resistance, which helps to strengthen muscles and improve cardio endurance and help fight daily fatigue.
The Benefits of Water Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis Patients
It can help with Fatigue
While fatigue is a symptom of many diseases and conditions, specific treatments have been found to be helpful for people with MS. Many people have found that water therapy is a great way to build strength and manage their fatigue. It takes approximately 3 months for the benefits to start to kick in, increased strength and cardio, and many see significant improvements fighting the MS fatigue and feel a better sense of wellbeing and quality of life.
It can help with Balance
Balance challenges can range from mild to severe and can impact day-to-day life and safety. This can include issues with things like:
• Walking and standing
• Eating and drinking
• Sitting and eye-tracking
• Reaching and grasping
Those who have MS can often experience balance issues resulting from fatigue, vision problems, spasms, or medication side effects.
Water therapy can be an excellent option for those who are looking for something to help with balance. This aquatic therapy has been found to help with balance issues in a similar way as it helps with fatigue. By treating both symptoms simultaneously, you can get the benefits of water therapy by treating your fatigue and balance issues at the same time.
Increased Buoyancy for ease of muscle movement and pain reduction: People with balance trouble also often have trouble with their gait. Gait and balance training with Aqua Treadmill help people learn to correct how they walk, without worrying that they will fall. The buoyancy of water lowers gravity’s force on a patient. Being submerged in water allows a person to be weightless and move more easily, even with weaker muscles from MS. It also can reduce the pain connected to weight-bearing movement and exercise regimes.
Warmth to aid the nervous system and muscle relaxation: The warm temperature of the water used can help to lower anxiety levels, relax muscles and reduce any pain experienced.
Viscosity to build strength: The water can also provide support to help stay upright during unstable exercises. A study from a Utah State University found that performing unstable exercises in the water reduced fall risk and improved muscular coordination.
No fear of falling: Water creates a more unstable environment for patients to work on their balance while also providing a safer enviornment. If a person falls in water, they can not hurt themselves as they would on land. Reducing the fear of falling can help improve dynamic balance. A fear of falling can limit the quality of life of a sufferer. They might not leave their house and be afraid to travel from one floor of their home to the next or visit family and friends
Turbulence of water resistance challenges balance: The movment created by water is more challenging to stand or maintain balance in compared to a land. Adding water resistance, provides additional stabilising challenges. The hydrostatic pressure created by the water also allows people to perform exercises more efficiently, as their heart rate reduces and their lymphatic system functions better.
It can help with Sensory Symptoms
It's essential to pay attention to the sensory symptoms as they may signify that something is wrong. This can range from tingling, burning, or a pins and needles sensation to vision problems such as blurry or double vision.
Reducing the sensory symptoms of MS can make daily life a little easier. It can also help with your mood and feelings of self-worth as you may begin to think that you're "unable" to do things.
It can help with Stiffness
Water therapy can help reduce stiffness in patients with MS by providing gentle resistance against which the muscles can work.
This resistance can help to improve muscle strength and flexibility.
Additionally, the buoyancy of the water can help support the body and reduce the effects of gravity, which can further help to reduce stiffness.
It can help with Depression
Many people suffering from depression and anxiety have reported that water therapy has helped with their mood and feelings of well-being. There are a few particular theories as to why this might be the case. One is that your mood can be related to your physical state – if you're feeling exhausted, it's not surprising that you're also having a bad day. Water therapy can help you to get more energy and recharge. Water helps oxygenate your blood which can be very beneficial for your body chemistry.
It can help with Constipation
Constipation and other bladder and bowel issues are another common symptom of MS. The condition can make it challenging to move around or even go to the bathroom when this occurs, making you feel uncomfortable and irritated. Water therapy is an excellent treatment for constipation as it can help to relax the muscles in your digestive system and the hydrostatic pressure is a gentle stimulant. This can make passing stool easier and move your bowels more regularly. Water therapy can be a good option for treating constipation.
It can help with Cooling
Those suffering from MS may find taking a hot shower, spending time in the sun, or even just preparing a hot meal, cause symptoms to flare up. This is because MS causes nerves to lose their conductive coating (also known as a myelin sheath), making them more sensitive to heat and temperature changes.
When this occurs , symptoms such as dizziness, sweating, and increased heart rate may increase. Aquatic therapy can having a cooling effect and is one of the best ways for suffers to stay cool in summer. In summer we recommend MS sufferers come to early morning and evening sessions for maximum cooling benefits.In winter we recommend later morning or evening sessions after the blankets have been off and the air has cooled the water. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the water temperature should be below 29 degrees.
Water therapy can be a great way to manage the symptoms of MS and is a superb way to relax and unwind the mind and body while also recharging your batteries.
Swimming is a form of water exercise that’s beneficial for people with MS. Still, it’s not the only way to work out in the pool. There are other water-based activities have also been found to help with MS and also provide additional balance and coordination benefits.
If you are not a confident swimmer or you just don’t like dunking your head underwater, try aqua cycling, aqua running or join an HIIT Aqua Circuit class. If that's not an option in your location, most local pools have an Aqua Aerobics program.
An Aqua Treadmill is a brilliant piece of aquatic equipment that helps the symptoms and manageability of MS. MS sufferers with balance trouble also often have trouble with their gait. Gait and balance training with a Aquatic Treadmill can help people learn to correct how they walk, without worrying that they will fall.
Aqua treadmills can help with balance by providing resistance to help with stability and balance. The water provides a safe and secure environment while also helping to improve the range of motion.
An Aqua Bike is also another great piece of aquatic equipment that can help alleviate MS symptoms and enable exercise.
An aqua bike can help with stiffness by providing a low-impact workout that is easy on the joints. Water cycling is often used as a mid-term fatigue treatment because it can help to improve circulation and increase energy levels after building up strength. It can also help to reduce stress and anxiety, which can contribute to fatigue.
An aquabike can help with balance and its simple to sit on the seat. One side weakness is common in MS. The standing and climbing movements can help build even body strength, both sides, and improve balance and reduce one side weakness and tingling.
Aqua cycling can also help with bowel constipation by stimulating the area around the abdominals and digestive system. Additionally, the water can help to relax the muscles in the gut, which can also aid in relieving constipation.
Note: Please seek medical advice before exercising & always train under the advice your medical specialist.