There are a number of symptoms that MS has, and some are more disabling than others. Without any doubt one of the most disturbing and disabling symptom is leg muscle weakness. As for most patients with MS muscle weakness comes and goes, and it’s more of a gradual thing, the MS sufferers have a chance to adapt (at least partially) to their new condition. However, since MS is a progressive disease, every patient knows that their muscle weakness is only going to get worse, as the disease progresses to more advanced stages.
So, why muscle weakness? What causes it? As it is already well know, multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that is constantly progressing due to the demyelination of the fatty myelin sheaths around the spinal cord and brain. This demyelination directly affects nerve cells’ ability to communicate with each other – this happens both in the brain and spinal cord. What exactly happens? Nerve cells use electrical signals to communicate with each other. The signals are sent through axons, and the axons are wrapped in an insulating substance – the myelin. The immune system of a person with MS attacks and damages the myelin – needless to say, this doesn’t happen in the body of a person who doesn’t have MS. As myelin is lost, the axons are unable to properly conduct the electrical signals sent by the nerves through various parts of the body.
Due to the demyelination process, and the fact that nervous signals don’t reach their “target”, patients will feel that they lack strength, and that their muscles are weak. However, muscle weakness is just a neurological problem, the muscle itself being as fit and strong as ever.
The question on everyone’s mind is “can this be prevented?” Unfortunately, as already said, MS is a progressive disease, so this means that the chances of stopping this are very, very slim (at least for the moment). But it has been proven that people, who keep their level of fitness up, slow down the effects that MS has on their muscles.
Needless to say, it’s very important to have strong leg muscles because one’s legs support all of one’s weight. This is why it’s of the utmost importance for every MS sufferer to work their leg muscles as much as possible. This includes swimming, jogging, a brisk walk, cycling, or any other form of physical activity that puts one’s leg muscles at work.
There are a large number of exercises that one can do to keep their fitness level up and their leg muscles strong. However, since no two persons with MS have the same symptoms, it is recommended for one to ask specialized help, from one’s healthcare specialist or doctor. The thing is, that even if for people who don’t have MS the “no pain, no gain” saying works just fine, MS sufferers already need to withstand some degree of pain, so the exercises in their daily routine need to be customized to fit their individual needs.