I’ve said in more than one blog that I consider myself to be a healthy person who happens to live with multiple sclerosis (Multiple Sclerosis). “Healthy,” perhaps, but lately I’ve found myself significantly out of shape.
With all that 2016 has brought upon me, I decided to ask my wife, Caryn, for help in getting onto a stretching program to help with the things that MS has thrown my way.
How to Stretch With Multiple Sclerosis
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) has set out the following guidelines for people with MS as we get into a stretching routine:
- Stretch on a daily basis, as much as is possible.
- Include muscle groups that are tight or in spasm.
- Do slow, gentle, prolonged stretches, and go just to the point where you feel a gentle pulling, but not pain.
- Hold stretches for 20 to 60 seconds or 5 to 10 breaths.
- Avoid bouncing movements.
- Use assistance as needed: a partner, towel, or strap (talk to a yoga teacher or physical therapist about what you can use to help you stretch — and how to use it).
Most of the stretching I’ve been doing has included some form of assistance — be it a chair, the wall, or often, Caryn herself. My balance has become something of an issue, so having something or someone to hold onto while stretching has been helpful.
Also helpful for when balance is even more of an issue is an illustrated, online manual from the NMSS called Stretching for People With Multiple Sclerosis.
This manual has drawings of stretches that can be done seated or lying down. It has specific stretches for some areas of spasticity and other difficulties that commonly affect people with Multiple Sclerosis.
For my own routine, I’ve dug out my physical therapist’s notes from after my hip replacement to help ease some stiffness in that area of the old body, particularly.
How My Stretching Is Paying Off
How out of shape am I? Well, let’s just say that the day after those first stretches I felt like I’d gone a few rounds with an Olympic boxer. But I’m keeping it up. I’m feeling the benefits after just a week.
My balance isn’t any better, my stamina is the same, and my spasticity hasn’t eased in affected areas. But I do feel a bit more loose and flexible. I enjoy the routine of taking half an hour out of the day to look after myself, and I look forward to the other anticipated benefits as they come.
Even if they don’t, continued progress along the lines that I’ve already experienced would be enough to stay the course.
A physiatrist who specializes in multiple sclerosis once told me, “Everyone should stretch every day … Multiple Sclerosis or not.” It’s just taken me a little while to come around to heeding his words.
I’m probably late to the table on this one. Who else has some stories of stretching and their multiple sclerosis?
Wishing you and your family the best of health.