“Did I Cause My MS?”

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, resulting in the loss of muscle control, vision, balance, and sensation. Once diagnosed with MS, some may begin to wonder if there was anything that they did or didn’t do that may have caused the disease. Dwelling on these thoughts can introduce mental stress, and we know that physical or mental stress can contribute to exacerbation. So let’s clarify something: Research to date indicates that there are no activities that specifically cause MS, but there are activities that can exacerbate symptoms once a diagnosis is confirmed. For example, one patient may want to avoid the heat in the summer months. Another may need to take a rest in the early afternoon because that is when they feel fatigued.

There is evidence that having an infection, like a UTI or upper respiratory infection, will increase the likelihood of an exacerbation. In addition, emotional stress has been linked to a worsening of MS symptoms. To be clear, having MS is not the fault of those who have it. MS can happen to anyone. What is critical is that the person living with MS lead a healthy lifestyle, including daily exercise, a balanced low-fat diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, and activities that help alleviate stress, like art, meditation, or yoga.

Magee was recently awarded a grant from the MS Society for wellness promotion in people living with MS. The MS Healthy Living Program is a weekly program held at Magee’s Riverfront outpatient location. The program provides regular educational, recreational, cognitive, and exercise activities. Exercise classes focus on cardiovascular health, resistance training, stretching, and core strengthening. These sessions also incorporate varied activities like yoga, Zumba, dance movement therapy, and circuit training. Socialization and stress reduction is enhanced through art and horticultural therapies. The program is held every Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon, followed by light snacks.

If you or someone you know is living with MS, we welcome you to join this exciting new program!  If you wish to register for the program, or if you have any questions, please contact Mary Clare Schafer RN, MS, ONC, CRRN (program director) at 215-218-3905.

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