MS affects the way your muscles and nerves communicate, so it can lead to walking problems (your gait). This is one of the most common MS symptoms, and is related to several factors like muscle weakness, spasticity, numbness, balance and fatigue.
MS can cause you to fall more often (studies from several countries report that 50-70% of people with MS say they have fallen in the past 2-6 months), which can cause injuries. You can be more at risk of falling for a few reasons like poor balance, walking slower than usual, a reduced ability to sense where your body parts are in space, using the wrong canes or walkers or using them incorrectly, and using certain medicines that affect your nervous system.
If you have gait problems, you may have to walk more consciously to avoid falls, avoid slippery or cluttered surfaces and wear safe, stable shoes.
Other things you can do to manage walking issues are:
- Physical therapy
- Use the right assistive devices
- Talk to your doctor
Spasticity is a word for feelings of stiffness and muscle spasms (muscle contractions that don’t stop, or sudden movements). It can range from mild (muscle tightness or stiffness) to severe (painful, uncontrollable spasms of muscles or pain in the joints). It can occur in any of your limbs, but it’s the most common in the legs. Spasms can be bothersome, especially at night, and they can add to feelings of fatigue.
Common spasticity treatments may involve physical or occupational therapy.
Tremor is a movement disorder that involves rhythmic, involuntary movements. In MS, tremor happens during or can be triggered by voluntary movements (“intention tremor”), and they can affect any muscle group in the body, such as the arms, legs, trunk, head, vocal cords, jaws, lips and tongue. Sometimes, people with tremor can also have difficulty swallowing or speaking. Tremor often contributes to feelings of fatigue and overall disability, since it can make regular things like dressing or eating more difficult. For this reason, tremor can have an impact on your emotions and social life as well.
Addressing tremor can involve occupational or physical therapy.