Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

What is multiple sclerosis (MS)?

MS is a condition that affects the nerves in the spinal cord and brain. These nerves are covered by an insulating layer called myelin. MS occurs when the body mistakenly attacks this myelin and breaks it down, which affects the way signals are sent through the nerves.MS can take different forms, with new symptoms occurring in either isolated attacks (relapsing forms) or developing over time (progressive forms). Symptoms of MS vary from person to person and can include fatigue, decreased balance, changes in sensation, muscle stiffness, and reduced mobility. 

How can physiotherapy help?

Physiotherapists specialise in the assessment and treatment of many of the problems that may affect a person with MS. These can include muscle weakness, stiffness and spasms, reduced co-ordination, impaired balance, footdrop and numbness are all common MS symptoms and can increase the risk of falling. Physiotherapy can help people living with MS to maintain and improve their with physical independence, flexibility, strength,fitness and falls prevention strategies.

Physiotherapists can provide an individualised exercise programme that takes into account the individual’s personal goals, daily life, symptoms, and the specific type of MS. Treatment may include balance training, sensory exercises, resistance strength training, stretching advice, aerobic exercise, casting/splinting, falls prevention advice and electrical stimulation. Physiotherapy can also help with fatigue management.

Physiotherapists often run groups for people with MS. As well as offering skilled support from the physiotherapist, these groups provide opportunities for exercise, peer support and encouragement.


What will happen when I visit a physiotherapist?

An initial physiotherapy session may involve being asked questions such as when you were first diagnosed or when you first experienced symptoms. You may also be asked about your job, daily activities, fatigue levels, exercise, balance and falls history. The physiotherapist may assess your muscle strength, balance, walking and co-ordination and demonstrate different exercises for you. From this assessment the physiotherapist will then formulate an individualised treatment plan for you which will best support you in your goals.


Useful links and resources

MS Ireland 



The content on this page is provided for general information purposes only and is not meant to replace a physiotherapy or medical consultation. The ISCP is not responsible for the content of any external sites, nor should selection be seen as an endorsement of them.