Taking Steps To Manage Your MS Fatigue

“Learn how to make the most of your energy” ~MultipleSclerosis.net

When I was diagnosed in 1987, my doctor told me the most common complaint of people with Multiple Sclerosis was fatigue.  At 28 years old that was a hard pill to swallow.  Today I know how to better manage my MS fatigue.  You can learn how to manage yours better, too.

Multiple Sclerosis fatigue affects us in our daily living.  At times (or all the time) we perform one or two tasks, and then feel completely exhausted the rest of the day.  The remainder of our daily responsibilities go unmet because we are simply too tired to complete them.

The underlying disease process can cause different types of fatigue.  One is named primary MS fatigue.  The typical case of primary MS fatigue is waking up feeling somewhat energized, then feeling tired in the afternoon and less tired in the evening. Secondary MS Fatigue is caused by MS, but is due to other possibly treatable factors.

There is also nerve fiber fatigue.  Have you ever taken a walk and after awhile your legs go from feeling fine to feeling weak? This may be caused from the loss of myelin sheath around nerve fibers.

There is also the fatigue of walking with a disability.  It takes more energy to walk with a disability; trying to keep your balance while walking can contribute to overall fatigue.

Here are some ways people try to manage their fatigue.  As with anything, consult your doctor about your fatigue, and discuss any medications, alternative therapies or over-the-counter drugs you are considering:

  • Medications: The most common medications prescribed for fatigue is Symmetrel or Provigil.  Though not FDA approved specifically for MS, these drugs have been found to be helpful with MS related fatigue.
  • Occupational Therapy: A good OT can help by discussing your daily routine and simplifying your tasks to expend less energy.
  • Psychological intervention:  Learning stress management or relaxation therapy (like meditation) is quite helpful.  You may consider finding a qualified psychotherapist to talk about your fatigue, or perhaps you’d prefer joining a support group to discuss your issues with fatigue.  You can find local supports group on The National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s website at http://www.nmss.org.
  • Sleep: Many people with MS have difficulty getting an adequate amount of sleep.  We may be experiencing fatigue, yet a night of restful sleep escapes us .  Symptoms such as spasticity and urinary problems may disrupt our sleep.  Medications for symptoms may help.  Short-term use of sleep medications, such as Ambien, may be helpful.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures: Extreme temperatures have been found to affect fatigue.  Consider using a cooling vest, taking a cool shower or using a heating pad in cold weather as strategies to regulate your body’s temperature.
  • Assistive Devices: If you have trouble walking, consult with your doctor about finding the right assistive device.  A cane, walker or scooter will help you conserve your energy.
  • Physical therapy: Like a good OT, a qualified physical therapist can give you find energy-saving tips to walk and perform daily tasks.
  • Antidepressants: Depression is a common issue for people with MS.  Fatigue and problems with mobility may add to depression.  Consult your physician about the possibility of using an antidepressant to help with your depression.  Once feeling better, you may be more apt to exercise and take better care of your MS needs.
  • Review your medications: Some medications list fatigue as a side effect.  Speak to your doctor about whether your medication may be causing your fatigue.
  • Diet: Poor food choices due to fatigue (“I’m too tired to cook”) may lead to depleting the vitamins necessary to metabolize energy, which helps the body function effectively.
  • Other underlying causes: Fatigue may be related to other underlying causes unrelated to MS.  Check with your doctor
  • Rest: Take naps and/or rest to re-energize.
  • Exercise: Any exercise, even 10 minutes a day, can add to your energy reserves. (Examples: Yoga, Walking, Swimming, Stretching, T’ai Chi)

The popular saying “It takes a village” applies to managing your MS fatigue.  Putting together a qualified team of doctors, and asking for help from close family and friends, is important in helping you try to live the best quality of life possible.1,2

NOTE: Read MultipleSclerosis.net’s article, “Management of Fatigue”.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (15)
  • EAB609
    3 years ago

    I have found that learning and practicing Tai Chi and Qigong help me feel better on many levels: physically, emotionally, spiritually. It has helped relieve balance and gait issues, cognitive problems, anxiety, depression, insomnia, mood swings and most of all FATIGUE…a “Moving Meditation” that is amazingly simple to do on both my best and worst days. You can even do it in a chair, waiting in line, or even just visualize the moves to relax. The breathing aspect is key. Either 5 minutes or 2 hours at a time…it works, but best if work up to 20 minutes 2x a day, every day. Do Tai Chi and Qigong every day. IT is a blessing in disguise. Find a reputable teacher and class…instant friends! Check your Type A personality at the door and feel the flow of Qi. Placebo? Science? Who cares…it works for me and I hope it will work for you, too! A good resource is “The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi: 12 Weeks to a Healthy Body, Strong Heart & Sharp Mind, by Peter M. Wayne, PhD, with Mark L Fuerst.” The WWW has so much on video, too. Read, Watch, Listen…Try it today! World Tai Chi and Qigong Day is the last Saturday in April. Join a class and get ready to participate! You will thank me and yourself for giving Tai Chi and Qigong a try, rich with history and benefits for young and old alike…ENJOY!

  • Kim
    5 years ago

    Heat really effects me, so becoming overheated wipes me out. I’ve found that I can do much more around the house if I ice my back. I place an ice pack, wrapped in a thin towel, inside the waistband of my shorts..I wear shorts in the house year-round..this cools my lower back (and I believe my spinal column), and I can continue working for a longer period of time before my legs become too weak to continue. I use a walker or a scooter outside the house…

  • Carrieb
    5 years ago

    Hello all,
    First, Nick. Nothing worked for me (provigil) and others. My neuro put me on 10mg adderral 2x a day. One at 5-6 am, the second at noon. It does seem to help, not always, but that’s OK.
    2nd, I went from an avid runner, step and cycle instructor to a blob most of the time. Don’t know if my few changes will help, but I am going to try. I’m trying to eat better, eliminated “fake sugar” etc. I’m a junk food fan, so it’s been a challenge. Next I have started playing around with my son’s medicine ball. I’m on day 2.went from 5 minutes to 15. I also managed, 2 push ups. So, I’m challenging myself. It’s hard. It’s winter, but I m hoping I’ll have a tad more energy. Walking just wears me out, maybe this will work better.
    Most msers have extra time. I’m trying to change that time from couch to floor.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    5 years ago

    That sounds wonderful, Carrieb. You are working within your abilities to find what works best for you. I applaud your courage and strength to follow this path. Bravo.

    Please keep us posted on your progress.

    Oh, I also think it’s wonderful that you are making diet changes as well. That is vitally important and I know you will feel a big difference.

    Great to hear from you.

    Best always~
    Cathy

  • kimber
    6 years ago

    does anyone know where i can buy a cooling vest.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    6 years ago

    Kimber, This is one company I saw on the Internet who sells them. You can also go to Amazon (www.amazon.com) and type in “cooling vests” in their search box. http://www.veskimo.com/ms-body-cooling-vest.php

  • Nick
    6 years ago

    I wish I knew what to do when provigil doesn’t really help. I am going to ask my doctor again when I have my next appointment. I really hope he can help because I am sick of being tired. I need to be able to make it a day without being desperate for a nap.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    6 years ago

    Good luck with your appointment, Nick. Keep working towards finding an answer for yourself – you deserve it and a good quality of life!

    Best~
    Cathy

  • jordandossett
    6 years ago

    Hey Nick,
    I was on Provigil for a long time and he moved me to Nuvigil. I would say that the initial move helped and the dose is different but here it has now been 18 months and I can feel the lul. I think for me I need to work out how to get more sleep.

    Best of luck,
    Jordan

    twitter/facebook: jordandossett

  • RichG
    6 years ago

    Most MS sufferers with bad fatigue look for that pill to help them. A pill for this, a pill for that.Changing your diet is the easiest, safest and least expensive way to stop MS fatigue. I speak all over on MS and Nutrition because I live it and I had the most terrible form of fatigue and also cognitive issues you could imagine. I could sleep from 8pm to 4 in the afternoon, no problem! Once I switched to a whole food plant based diet, it was like a switch went off. No fatigue, and no more cognitive problems. But most folks will not give up meat and dairy to help themselves, will they? A pill is always the easiest answer. Sad.A pill should be the LAST answer!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    6 years ago

    RichG,

    I am glad you found something that works for you! That is marvelous.

    What works for you may or may not work for the next person, since we all have MS differently. It would be nice to think it does, and perhaps we should all try your plant based diet. But if that doesn’t work, then we try something else until we find what does work for us.

    Keep up the good work on spreading your knowledge around.

    Best~
    Cathy

  • jordandossett
    6 years ago

    That was kind of generic and insulting to say that most of us that suffer are looking for a pill to help them rather than a diet change. I challenge that. I also off up that meditation will help tremendously and if you want to walk, try a walking meditation. Eating right is best for you even if healthy so this kind of age old spouting is not helpful when in pain, the pain has to be peeled away, you can’t just go on “The Biggest Looser” to drop weight without possibly damaging your heart, knees, etc. And as someone with MS you can’t just suddenly eat right to not have fatigue. You can eat all the right foods, take the medication prescribed, and yes you will more than likely still have fatigue. Why? Because MS is progressive. Sadly just as soon as we are comfortable where we are, here changes. I welcome any of you to join me at happify.com I have a small handful of invites and it will help with meditation and cognitive exercises.

    Jordan

  • betina605
    6 years ago

    i feel like i have all three types. i am really wanting to walk my dogs everyday, but no onje in my family will walk with me. i’m talkn only 3/4 a mile around my neighborhood. i’m kinda hurt by that. i’m hurt by that. i really believe walkn will improve my balance and i could stand to lose 10 lbs too. i have high blood pressure. i would love to have an accountability partner(s)? anybody intersted?

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    6 years ago

    Perhaps you could bring a cane with you just in case. I have a foldable one I bring with me in case I need it on a walk.

  • jordandossett
    6 years ago

    I have no idea where you live but I would say yes. One thing that tends to bite me in the ass with walking is “thinking” that I can go further so I will walk say 1/2 or even just 1/4 a mile and then there is no way I can get back. So the one thing I will challenge you to do is go by yourself, get an iPod or iPhone so you can do a walking meditation of it but remember, only go 1/2 as far as you think you can as you do have to turn around and come back.

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