Gentle movements, temperature regulation, home adaptations, brain exercises, and a nutrient-dense diet may help you manage some symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Asking for support is also important.
If you’re living with multiple sclerosis (MS), you may find it helpful, or necessary, to adjust areas of your life to help make daily tasks easier and less tiring.
Self-care strategies like following a well-balanced diet and getting regular physical activity may help reduce the impact MS symptoms have. Following your healthcare professional’s recommendations and treatment plan is also key in helping you cope with MS.
Here are eight tips to help you manage MS symptoms daily:
Creating convenience to help reduce the daily demands on your energy is key in managing life with MS. Little changes can make a big difference.
Depending on your own individual circumstances, you may consider:
- following a written or audio journal to keep all the information you need about your condition in one place
- using voice-to-text software to avoid typing on your computer or smartphone
- picking a specific and easy-to-reach place for the items you use or need the most
- implementing occupational therapy tools to help with fine motor tasks like pulling on socks and opening jars
- scheduling reminders and memos on your smartphone via an app
- asking your friends and family to support some of your daily tasks like grocery shopping or transportation
If you live with MS, it’s possible you may be
To cool down when feeling overheated, consider:
- finding clothing that contains gel packs and helps you stay cool in hot weather
- switching to a firm mattress with a cooling surface designed to keep you cool at night and alternatively considering using cooling pads for mattresses
- taking cool baths until you experience relief
- staying hydrated consistently to help your body self-regulate
- installing fans or air conditioning units, if possible, in your home or office
Staying active may help make everyday tasks easier. If you live with MS fatigue, gentle moves and supported postures may be the way to go. For example, you might:
- stretch for a few minutes daily to help relieve muscle soreness and spasticity
- work toward developing core strength to help reduce back, joint, and neck pain
- sleep with a pillow or bolster under your knees to help reduce the pressure on your back and help prevent morning pain and stiffness
Fatigue is a common symptom of MS. You may want to pace yourself throughout the day if that’s possible. Taking breaks as needed may also help.
The following adjustments may also help you manage MS symptoms daily:
- identifying those tasks you may be able to do sitting down, such as folding laundry, taking a shower, or chopping vegetables
- considering using a trolley for setting and clearing the table or putting away laundry
- distributing cleaning supplies around your home so you don’t have to carry them around when doing chores
- using a removable showerhead that allows you to sit
- switching to lightweight bedding so you can move easily during the night
Some MS symptoms such as reduced motor control and loss of balance may affect your safety in certain situations. MS also has other effects on your body that may compromise your coordination and mobility at times.
If you experience any of these events or feel you may need additional support moving around to help prevent a fall, consider discussing potential solutions with your healthcare professional.
In the meantime, the following changes and updates may help you feel more secure about your safety:
- opting for light and anti-slip closed shoes, avoiding slippers and sandals when possible
- adding a non-skid mat to your shower or bath and around your bathrooms and kitchen
- switching to appliances and electronics that have an auto-shutoff option
- leaving the bathroom and bedroom doors unlocked if possible
- carrying your phone with you consistently, even around your home
- installing handrails where you think they may help, such as along staircases or in your shower
- asking your friends and relatives to check in on you periodically whenever you’re spending time on your own
Although MS fatigue and stiffness may make you feel like exercise is the last thing you’d like to do, physical activity may actually help you cope with some of your symptoms.
Although evidence about the specific advantages of exercise for MS is limited, research indicates that regular exercise offers may provide many benefits. It may enhance your strength, balance, endurance, and flexibility. Movement also reduces the chance of other diagnoses, like high cholesterol and heart disease, and may improve your cognitive and mental health.
Physical activity does not have to be intense or last for a long time. If possible, you may also incorporate activities like:
- doing water aerobics
- doing chores
- playing with your pets
- practicing yoga
- practicing tai chi
A balanced diet may help your body function better so you can manage MS more effectively.
A few nutrient-dense foods you may want to incorporate include:
- sweet potatoes
- berries and other fresh fruits
Before making any significant changes to your eating habits, you may want to discuss these with your healthcare professional. They can assess your needs, including determining whether you have any nutritional deficiencies, or they may refer you to a dietitian to help create an eating plan that’s tailored to your needs.
Your healthcare professional may also recommend supplements and other natural remedies like vitamin D, biotin, and Omega-3. It is important that you do not start any of these without first consulting with a doctor or another healthcare professional. Some foods, supplements, herbs, and other medications may interact negatively with your MS medications.
MS may lead to cognitive challenges, which can make managing day-to-day life more difficult.
Early research suggests that brain exercises, including those involving a computer or other device, may help preserve function and slow down cognitive decline, in addition to other benefits.
- verbal memory
- working memory
- phonetic fluency
- anxiety symptoms
- self-reported quality of life
Researchers didn’t report any improvements in fatigue levels and depressive symptoms.
Brain exercises and other activities you may want to consider to help support your cognitive health include:
- board games
- video games
- guided meditation
- memory card games
Coping with MS can be challenging, but there are treatment options available to help manage symptoms and provide relief. Introducing physical accommodations to your home, regulating body temperature, staying physically active, pacing yourself, and practicing cognitive games may help you better manage MS.