A tremor refers to an involuntary movement of the limbs or body. It is a common symptom in many neurological and autoimmune conditions, including Multiple Sclerosis. About 25% to 60% of Multiple Sclerosis patients will experience this symptom, which can be embarrassing as well as debilitating to manage. The right treatment, however, can make things much easier. Here’s a quick guide on how to manage Multiple Sclerosis tremors on a daily basis.
Understanding Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory condition of the central nervous system. It is an autoimmune demyelinating disease, which means the immune system mistakenly attacks normal tissue — in this case, the myelin or the protective covering around nerve fibers. This leaves scarred tissue or lesions in multiple areas, disrupting electrical impulses throughout the body. When the myelin sheath is damaged, nerve impulses slow down or even stop, causing neurological problems. Multiple Sclerosis has no cure, but treatment plans can slow disease progression, control symptoms, and enhance quality of life.
Tremors in Multiple Sclerosis
People with Multiple Sclerosis typically experience what is known as an intention tremor. This type of tremor shows up only when the person is moving, not when they are at rest. As the person tries to reach for something or take a step in a certain direction, the tremor kicks in, impeding the movement. Another type is a postural tremor, in which the person experiences tremors while standing or sitting, but not when lying down. Some Multiple Sclerosis patients also experience jumpy eye movements, known as Nystagmus. Tremors occur due to damage in the nerve pathways from myelin erosion, leading to loss of control over balance and coordination. The tremor can show up as an early warning sign of Multiple Sclerosis and persist as the disease progresses.
Tremors can make it harder to perform daily activities like getting dressed or feeding oneself, and may even be dangerous if the patient is handling objects like sharp knives. Tremors also take its toll mentally as the patient struggles to keep them a secret, particularly in public. Since the nerve pathways that govern movement also coordinate functions like speaking and swallowing, Multiple Sclerosis patients with tremors may also exhibit difficulties with these functions.
Managing tremors in Multiple Sclerosis
A typical Multiple Sclerosis treatment plan will include a combination of Stem Cell Therapy, Physiotherapy, Behavioral therapy, Speech therapy, and Occupational therapy to slow disease progression and control the symptoms. Physical therapy can make the body more stable over time and improve control over voluntary movements, while Speech therapy can help control actions like speaking and swallowing to overcome facial tremors. There are no specific treatments available to cure tremors, although certain lifestyle changes can help. These include:
- Adding small weights to utensils to help with eating safely
- Using a drinking straw to avoid spillage
- Wearing clothes with velcro fastenings rather than hooks or buttons
- Using a speech-to-text converter to type
- Stretches and exercises to improve mobility and control in the limbs
- Assistive devices for dressing, writing, cooking, and other daily activities
- Braces to hold the joint still and to make it easier to walk and move around (when placed on the ankle, foot, or arm)
Your doctor will make recommendations for some or all of these depending on what your symptoms are and the extent of disease progression. In addition, psychological counseling can help with the emotional impact of tremors, enabling you to feel more comfortable, and confident in social settings.
Tremors can be alarming when they occur and impede your normal lifestyle, but the right Multiple Sclerosis treatment will help you manage them and make necessary adjustments. Above all, be patient with yourself and seek the help you need, when you need it. This way, you can continue living as independently as possible and learn to not let the tremors define you or your outlook on life.