Secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) can cause a variety of symptoms, including dizziness, fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle tightness, and loss of sensation in your limbs.
Over time, these symptoms may affect your ability to walk. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS), 80 percent of people with MS experience challenges walking within 10 to 15 years of developing the condition. Many of them can benefit from using a mobility support device, such as a cane, walker, or wheelchair.
It may be time to consider using a mobility support device if you’ve been:
- feeling unsteady on your feet
- losing your balance, tripping, or falling frequently
- struggling to control the movements in your feet or legs
- feeling very tired after standing or walking
- avoiding certain activities because of mobility challenges
A mobility support device may help prevent falls, conserve your energy, and increase your activity level. This can help you enjoy better overall health and quality of life.
Take a moment to learn about some of the mobility support devices that may help you stay mobile with SPMS.
If you’ve developed weakness or paralysis in the muscles that lift your foot, you may develop a condition known as foot drop. This can cause your foot to droop or drag when you walk.
To help support your foot, your doctor or rehabilitation therapist may recommend a type of brace known as an ankle-foot orthosis (AFO). This brace can help hold your foot and ankle in the proper position while you walk, which may help prevent tripping and falling.
In some cases, your doctor or rehabilitation therapist might encourage you to use an AFO along with other mobility support devices. If you use a wheelchair, for example, an AFO can help support your foot on the footrest.
If you’ve developed foot drop, your doctor or rehabilitation therapist may advise you to try functional electrical stimulation (FES).
In this treatment approach, a lightweight device is attached to your leg below your knee. The device sends electrical impulses to your peroneal nerve, which activates muscles in your leg and foot. This may help you walk more smoothly, reducing your risk of tripping and falling.
FES only works if the nerves and muscles below your knee are in good enough condition to receive and respond to electrical impulses. Over time, the condition of your muscles and nerves may deteriorate.
Your doctor or rehabilitation therapist can help you learn if FES may help you.
If you feel a little unsteady on your feet, you might benefit from using a cane, crutches, or a walker for support. You need to have good arm and hand function to use these devices.
When used properly, these devices may help improve your balance and stability and reduce your chances of falling. If not used properly, they may actually raise your risk of falling. If poorly fitted, they can contribute to back, shoulder, elbow, or wrist pain.
Your doctor or rehabilitation therapist can help you learn if any of these devices may be helpful to you. They can also help you choose an appropriate style of device, adjust it to the right height, and show you how to use it.
If you can no longer walk where you need to go without feeling tired, or if you’re often afraid you might fall, it may be time to invest in a wheelchair or scooter. Even if you can still walk for short distances, it may be helpful to have a wheelchair or scooter for times when you want to cover more ground.
If you have good arm and hand function and you’re not experiencing a lot of fatigue, you might prefer a manual wheelchair. Manual wheelchairs tend to be less bulky and less expensive than scooters or power wheelchairs. They also provide a bit of a workout for your arms.
If you find it difficult to propel yourself in a manual wheelchair, your doctor or rehabilitation therapist may recommend a motorized scooter or power wheelchair. Specialized wheels with battery-operated motors can also be attached to manual wheelchairs, in a configuration known as a pushrim-activated power-assist wheelchair (PAPAW).
Your doctor or rehabilitation therapist can help you learn which type and size of wheelchair or scooter may work well for you. They can also help you learn how to use it.
If you’ve been tripping, falling, or finding it difficult to get around, let your doctor know.
They may refer you to a specialist who can evaluate and address your mobility support needs. They may encourage you to use a mobility support device to help improve your safety, comfort, and activity level in your daily life.
If you’ve been prescribed a mobility support device, let your doctor or rehabilitation therapist know if you’re finding it uncomfortable or difficult to use. They might make adjustments to the device or encourage you to use another device. Your support needs might change over time.