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Chiropractic and Multiple Sclerosis: Trying to Provide Some Quality of Life

Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Knauf, D.C.

By Donna Stark

Chiropractic and Multiple Sclerosis

When life throws us a curveball, it often comes as a surprise -- and with little to no warning. We might be relishing a moment in our day one minute, only to find ourselves suddenly standing at the crossroads of uncertainty in the next.

Although we’ve all experienced varying degrees of these curveballs in our lives, we all haven’t been diagnosed with MS. For those who have, their crossroads may look a little bit different than some of the others. That’s because the uncertainties associated with multiple sclerosis are often as unique and unpredictable as the disease itself.

What Is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease in which the immune system attacks the protective coating that surrounds the body’s nerves. This attack results in significant nerve damage, which leads to disrupted communications between the brain, spinal cord, and the rest of the body.

So, what does that mean, and how does MS affect the general population?

For starters, MS is a lifelong condition that generally affects women more often than men. While it is commonly believed to result from a virus or gene defect, some theories suggest that environmental factors may also contribute. Furthermore, a strong connection exists between one's family history and residing in a region where this disease is prevalent.

Individuals who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis often have to adapt their daily behaviors and habits, but that doesn’t mean they can’t lead long, active, and healthy lives. Over one million people (including celebrities Christina Applegate, Selma Blair, and Montel Williams) live with MS in the United States, and many of them have shown that with the right care and support, it is possible to overcome the many challenges associated with this disease. The average life expectancy for people with MS is approximately 5 to 10 years lower than the average of those without an MS diagnosis.

What Are the Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?

Although MS can affect individuals at any age, it mostly appears between the ages of 20 and 40. The symptoms of this illness are unpredictable. Because this disease can potentially affect any part of the central nervous system, symptoms may vary in terms of severity and duration, and differ from one individual to the next. Here are some of the most common signs of MS.

  • Visual changes or loss of vision (optic neuritis)
  • Balance, mobility, and gait issues
  • Weakness in one or more limbs
  • Muscle spasms and stiffness
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Facial weakness and pain
  • Speech difficulties
  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Bowel and bladder problems
  • Aches and pain

Individuals with multiple sclerosis may experience a single, a few, or a wide variety of symptoms. Some may live without symptoms for the majority of their lives while others may have severe, persistent symptoms that never go away. The specific type of MS at play determines the course of this condition.

Types of Muscular Sclerosis

The three types of muscular sclerosis are distinguished simply by the way the disease progresses over time. Listed below are a few of the main characteristics that set them apart from each other.

  • Relapsing remitting MS - Individuals who live with relapsing remitting MS may experience relapses, or exacerbations of their symptoms, which can last for days or even weeks before improving. After these relapses, they may then enter long periods of recovery where they experience no symptoms at all.
  • Secondary progressive MS - Secondary progressive MS can develop in some people who initially started with relapsing remitting MS. This stage of the disease exhibits symptoms that gradually worsen over time, with or without relapses.
  • Primary progressive MS - Patients with primary progressive MS may experience a constant worsening and accumulation of symptoms without obvious attacks (relapses). Although there is no remission for these individuals, they may experience periods when their disease progression stabilizes.

Multiple Sclerosis and Children

Having your child diagnosed as one of the approximately 5,000 children and teens living with pediatric MS in the United States can be a scary and confusing experience. There are certainly a lot of unknowns regarding their future, but it’s important to remember that pediatric MS is not a fatal or contagious illness. So try to encourage your child to remain as active as they can by continuing to go to school and staying involved with their favorite sports or hobbies. There is no denying that an MS diagnosis requires a huge adjustment, but it doesn’t mean your child can’t maintain a normal quality of life.

Testing for Multiple Sclerosis

Since there is no single test for diagnosing MS, and because many other conditions have similar symptoms, doctors need to follow specific guidelines, called the McDonald criteria, for an accurate diagnosis. Additionally, they may utilize physical examinations, MRIs, evoked potential tests, lumbar punctures, and blood tests throughout this diagnostic process as well.

It’s important to note that some of these tests can be very uncomfortable, so be sure to speak openly and freely about any concerns you may have with your doctor. Remember, your team of doctors are there to support you during this journey and will help you get through the process as smoothly as possible.

Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis

There is no known cure for MS, so doctors generally focus on therapies that are designed to slow down the disease, control symptoms, speed recovery after attacks, and help their patients maintain the quality of life they desire. These therapies include, but are not limited to, the following.

  • Medications - Medications can help manage symptoms by reducing pain, slowing the progression of the disease, and treating associated issues.
  • Speech therapy - A speech and language therapist can help patients find ways to overcome problems with speech and swallowing.
  • Physical therapy - Physical therapy can help with muscle function as well as mobility and balance issues.
  • Occupational therapy - An occupational therapist can assess a patient’s home and suggest adaptations that may be of help.

Once diagnosed, MS stays with you for life, but treatments and specialists can help you manage the condition and its symptoms. Speak to your team of doctors for guidance on finding the best treatment suited for you or your loved one’s needs.

Can Chiropractic Care Reduce the Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?

Chiropractic care is primarily recognized for its ability to alleviate back and neck pain, but it should not be overlooked for the benefits it can offer to individuals with multiple sclerosis. Here are just a few of the advantages chiropractic care may bring.

  • Pain management - Routine chiropractic manipulation may help alleviate the pain and discomfort often associated with MS by correcting alignment issues, easing muscle tension, and improving joint function.
  • Mobility and muscle function - The adjustments received from a doctor of chiropractic care can help increase mobility, improve balance, and strengthen muscle function.
  • Stress, anxiety, and depression - Regular spinal manipulation may also help reduce symptoms associated with stress, anxiety, and depression by allowing you to get back to the hobbies you love.
  • Fatigue - Patients with MS may experience less fatigue and a rise in energy levels with chiropractic care, which can improve the quality of sleep by reducing pain.
  • Overall well-being - Chiropractic care helps to improve and support a patient's overall well-being, and in doing so, can enhance the quality of their life. It cannot cure MS, but may mitigate some of the side effects that accompany it.

The benefits of chiropractic care are numerous and worth looking into. If MS has affected how you live your life, or if it has changed the life of someone you love, take the time to visit the doctors at The Joint Chiropractic. The chiropractors there will be happy to explain the benefits of chiropractic care and how they can directly impact your life.

Living With Multiple Sclerosis

A diagnosis of MS is certainly a lot to digest, but it isn’t an end-all diagnosis. There are great teams of doctors to help you throughout this journey, and many different treatments to enhance the quality of your life. You may not be able to stop this curveball from coming, but you most certainly can choose how you respond.

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