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.

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