The Role of Rehabilitation in Managing MS
The goal of rehabilitation is to improve and maintain function. From the time of diagnosis onward, rehab specialists provide education and treatment designed to promote good health and general conditioning, reduce fatigue, and help you feel and function at your best—at home and at work. If symptoms begin to interfere with everyday activities, a rehab team can address problems with mobility, dressing and personal care, role performance at home and work, and overall fitness. They also provide evaluation and treatment of speech and swallowing difficulties and problems with thinking and memory.
Rehabilitation is considered a necessary component of comprehensive, quality health care for people with MS, at all stages of the disease.
Types of Rehabilitation Therapies
- Physical Therapy (PT)
The physical therapist evaluates and addresses the body’s ability to move and function, with particular emphasis on walking, strength, balance, posture, fatigue, and pain. PT might include stretching, range-of-motion and strengthening exercises, gait training, and training in the use of mobility aids (canes, crutches, scooters and wheelchairs) and other assistive devices. The ultimate goal is to achieve and maintain optimal functioning and prevent unnecessary complications such as de-conditioning, muscle weakness from lack of mobility, and muscle contractures related to spasticity.
- Occupational Therapy (OT)
The goal of OT is to enhance independence, productivity, and safety in all activities related to personal care, employment, and leisure activities. Occupational therapists provide training in energy conservation techniques and the use of adaptive tools and devices to simplify tasks at home and in the office. They recommend strategic modifications to the home and workplace to ensure accessibility and convenience. Occupational therapists also evaluate and treat problems with thinking and memory.
- Therapy for Speech and Swallowing Problems
The speech/language pathologist (SLP) evaluates and treats problems with speech and/or swallowing—both of which can result from damage in the CNS that reduces control of the muscles used in these important functions. The goal of therapy is to enhance ease and clarity of communication and promote safe swallowing and overall health. Some SLPs also evaluate and treat problems with thinking and memory.
- Cognitive Rehabilitation
Neuropsychologists, as well as many occupational therapists and speech/language pathologists, evaluate and treat changes in a person’s ability to think, reason, concentrate or remember. While these professionals use different evaluation and treatment strategies, they share the common goal of helping people function optimally if cognitive changes are experienced.
- Vocational Rehabilitation
State vocational rehab programs offer job readiness training, job coaching, job placement assistance, mobility training, and assistive technology assessments—with the goal of helping people maintain their current employment or find new employment that accommodates their needs.