Multiples Sclerosis
What is it?
Multiple sclerosis, often abbreviated to MS, is a neurological condition that affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system).

'Sclerosis' means scarring or hardening of tiny patches of tissue and "Multiple" recognises that this can happen at more than one place in the brain and/or spinal cord at once. 
The damage to nerves seems to be due to the immune system mistakenly attacking the nerve coating which is made of a fatty protein called myelin.

MS is a lifelong condition. It is rarely fatal and most people with MS live about as long as everyone else. It is not infectious or contagious so it can't be passed on to other people.

MS is the most common condition of the central nervous system affecting young adults. Over 100,000 people in the UK have MS which is about one in every 600. It is nearly three times more common in women than in men. Most people are diagnosed in their 20s and 30s but it can be diagnosed in younger and older people.
Multiples Sclerosis
There is a wide range of possible symptoms but most people experience only a small number around the time of diagnosis and won't go on to experience them all. The symptoms vary from one person to another and from day to day. This makes MS rather unpredictable.

Some of the most common symptoms around the time of diagnosis are fatigue (a kind of exhaustion which is out of all proportion to the task undertaken), stumbling more than before, unusual feelings in the skin (such as pins and needles or numbness), slowed thinking or problems with eyesight. All these symptoms can be symptoms of other conditions so it is important to see a health professional to get the correct diagnosis.

Other more advanced symptoms include hand weakness, wrist drop (difficulty raising hand), curling fingers, poor sensation. You may notice that you drop items or have difficulty gauging how to pick up an item. 

Loss of movement in the hands can make it difficult to hold a steering wheel making a driving a dangerous task that needs a special assessment. Contact the MS Society for more information on driving and how to get help with it.
Multiples Sclerosis
There are 4 types of MS:

  • Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS). This is the most common form of multiple sclerosis. About 85% of people with MS are initially diagnosed with RRMS. People with RRMS have temporary periods called relapses, flare-ups or exacerbations, when new symptoms appear

  • Secondary-Progressive MS (SPMS). In SPMS, symptoms worsen more steadily over time, with or without the occurrence of relapses and remissions. Most people who are diagnosed with RRMS will transition to SPMS at some point

  • Primary-Progressive MS (PPMS). This type of MS is not very common, occurring in about 10% of people with MS. PPMS is characterised by slowly worsening symptoms from the beginning, with no relapses or remissions

  • Progressive-Relapsing MS (PRMS). A rare form of MS (5%), PRMS is characterized by a steadily worsening disease state from the beginning, with acute relapses but no remissions, with or without recovery.

It is possible to have other upper limb conditions caused by tired or weak muscles, nerves and tendons alongside MS such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tendonitis. These are different conditions that can make your MS symptoms feel worse. It is important to have any unusual symptoms checked out because if left untreated they can cause a lot of unnecessary pain and discomfort.
Multiples Sclerosis
Treatment at Hand Kinetics
The good news is that the damage to myelin sheaths is able to repair itself early in the course of the disease. This is one of the reasons for the spontaneous improvement that occurs after relapses; remember we call this stage of the disease “relapsing remitting” for a reason (emphasis on remission or improvement after worsening).  

The key is to prevent further worsening that can result in more permanent damage. But even with the permanent damage that can occur at any time, other areas of the brain can be trained or coaxed into taking over lost functions. This ability to take over lost function is referred to as plasticity, and it works best when the retraining is started soon after a relapse.  

Traditionally, hand exercises are used to promote plasticity responses and improve hand function and prevent weakness over time. At Hand Kinetics you can expect a personalised hand and arm exercise programme to encourage plasticity and maintain movement.

We also make a variety of hand splints to enable weak muscles to keep moving, called dynamic splints, and other splints that keep the hands and/or fingers rested in a straight position to prevent fingers and wrists from curling, called static splints.

Contact us with any questions you may have or if you would like to know more about splints. 

Hand Kinetics Telephone: 0044 28 417 72301



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