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MS and Walking, Balance, & Coordination Problems

Many people with MS experience problems with gait, or difficulty walking. In fact, this is one of the most common mobility challenges faced by individuals with MS. There are several factors that may contribute to gait problems, including muscle weakness, spasticity, loss of balance, sensory deficit, and overall fatigue.

In our own “MS in America” study, 91% (n=3,009) of participants said that they experienced difficulties with walking, balance, or coordination and 49% (n=3,132) noted these problems as their most significant initial MS symptoms. Muscle weakness and loss of balance were the two most common symptoms associated with walking, balance, & coordination problems.

walking

Physical therapy and regular exercise or stretching can be an excellent way to maintain muscle strength and flexibility. People frequently find that strengthening muscles, particularly in the core, can also help with balance. In some cases, medication can also help with symptoms affecting gait. In clinical trials, Ampyra (dalfampridine) was found to improve walking speed by approximately 25%.

Our community recently shared their tips for managing the muscle spasticity and cramping often associated with MS. Cathy Chester also provided some ideas for managing fatigue.

Do you experience problems with your gait? If so, have you found ways to overcome or manage these symptoms? Please share in the comments!

The MS in America Study was conducted over the internet from November 2012 until January 2013. The primary goal of the study was to establish an understanding of the current state and trends of patients affected by Multiple Sclerosis. The survey included over 100 questions on a broad range of topics. A total of 3,437 people started the survey while 2,562 people completed the survey resulting in a high completion rate of 74.5%. To qualify for the survey, participants had to be MS patients over 18 years old and a US resident or US citizen living abroad.

The study was solely developed and funded by Health Union, LLC which does not manufacture, sell nor market any product to diagnose, prevent or treat MS or any other disease.

Comments

  • Kristie
    6 years ago

    I am glad to see that I am not the only one who has issues with walking. I was diagnosed in 1998. I have had my ups and owns. In the last 4 years walking has become progressively harder. I can walk for about 10 minutes and my legs begin to feel like noodles. It is what it is. I sit and then get up again.

    I then began to experience drop foot that caused me to fall a lot. however, I have found a miracle device called a WalkAid. I do not fall anymore and do not walk like a drunken sailor. I still have noodle legs but at least I am not falling. We all must remember, we will defeat this disease, the disease will not defeat us…

  • Ronald Huff
    6 years ago

    Walking is my primary MS symptom, though not the only. After breaking a leg in a fall eight years ago, I was put in a wheelchair. The first time I had a followup visit with a physical trainer, “I’m surprised you don’t weight 400 #. That is what usually happens when you go into a wheelchair!” I did go up to 198.2 # from 170, before turning it around mostly through portion control. Now I am using a combination of portion control, physical therapy dedicated to walking and Ritalin, being used in some cases of MS with walking and balance problems. In am still in assisted living but try to walk and do standing exercises twenty-twenty five minutes a day. There a lot of leg and body/trunk strengthening exercises that can be done lying down or sitting. I walk to the dining hall downstairs once a day, twice two days last week. This week my goal was to do 2X a day on three days. One step at a time. I am a big believer in the cumulative benefits of exercise. Time is important. When I was diagnosed MS patients were not encouraged to exercise, but that has changed and I think we have nothing to lose and much to gain.

  • Lovee
    6 years ago

    I have had MS since 1972, so I have had a lot of “experience”,so to speak. I have had the “MS gait” for quite awhile which I can feel self conscious about. I have fallen several times, but this summer I have fallen harder and with more “damage” that ever before. I tried to ask Neuro if it was just because I was getting older. He said he didn’t know. I then said “you are supposed to know”. I have been going to him for over 20 years, so we kind of banter back and forth, but it still didn’t answer my question. Right now I am using a cane because my knee is so messed up due to latest fall. I have had increased fatigue over the years and live in Texas, so the heat is getting harder and harder to take. I have also gained a lot of weight in last several years and know that doesn’t help things any. Would love to have a personal trainer, but on SS, that isn’t going to happen. My husband of 38 yrs and I have separated, so I have been living by myself and am starting to get concerned over this. But what do you except carry on and hope for the best? I have to laugh at all these Doomsday Preppers shows on. Like what am I going to do? I live by myself and have no children, so I am hoping to go fast at least. 🙂

  • ScarlettOH
    6 years ago

    Lovee, I really get what you’re saying. I too was long married (now long divorced) and have no children. We do have to find a way, and thus far I have. Hope you have, and will, also.

    Funny you should mention personal trainers. Just today I’ve arranged to get started with one. This will be only for a month or so, since it gets pricey very fast. But I need to lose weight and get some discipline, and this seems to be a good way to find structure. I have also done Pilates before and plan to start once more. MS does have a way of adding to any tendency to be inactive, which has happened to me way more than previously. Used to be quite slender. Hah.

    If a trainer isn’t in your budget, maybe some PT can be prescribed, and paid for by your insurer. And/or, YMCAs are generally quite reasonable in cost, and have equipment you can use as well as fitness classes.

    We need to keep on keepin’ on, so good luck.

  • ScarlettOH
    6 years ago

    As the old expression goes, this gets me where I live. I have always been a klutz, MS or no MS, but I used to have quite good balance. I took comfort in that, and avoided activities requiring lots of coordination.

    Since MS I have to be so careful. My worst outcome was from walking down the stairs. Although the dog’s leash had lots to do with it, I could not recover normally and more or less imploded on my left ankle. Surgery, lots of screws and other metal, months and months of PT, and nearly 3 years later it’s still a mess. I just don’t want to have still more surgery–had enough of that to last several lifetimes.

    The big lesson from that is to hold on to handrails for dear life, and I do. But smaller issues crop up all the time. Climbing up on to an examining table can be dicey. I can’t even slip in to some flip-flops without holding on to something.

    Physical therapy will be back in my life fairly soon, though to be honest it hasn’t helped a lot in the past. I just need to be really careful, and tell others to go on ahead of me on stairs and so forth. Probably look like I’m 110 sometimes, but c’est la vie.

  • Sue
    6 years ago

    My primary problem is indeed balance. Before I was diagnosed,I thought I was just getting older (age 54). I was literally bouncing off the walls walking down the hall at work. I couldn’t walk up or down any number of stairs without holding on to something. And I was forever almost falling over.

    Now, thanks to working with a personal trainer whose mom has MS, I can walk steadily, including going up and down stairs without holding on. It’s all about core strength – when they say, “Engage your core!”, that’s really what’s needed! So I work on building my core strength and then take the time to focus when I feel wobbly.

    Also, I need to slow down a bit and think before moving. Turning too quickly will definitely throw me off balance, but taking my time makes all the difference. Again, it’s all about centering myself and “engaging my core.”

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