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Is Exercise Helpful for Motor Neuron Disease?

Is Exercise Helpful for Motor Neuron Disease?

Long answer short – YES! Exercise can make a world of difference to those with Motor Neuron Disease (MND).

MND is a degenerative disease that affects the functioning of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. As the disease advances, voluntary action becomes more and more difficult to perform. Stiff joints and tight muscles impede everyday activities. Although the muscle damage is irreversible, the right type of exercise can certainly slow down the rate of degeneration of neurons and the subsequent muscle loss. 

How does exercise help? 

Exercise helps maintain strength and endurance  in the weakened muscle. Even the muscles that have not yet been damaged and weakened by the disease can also fortify their strength and improve their elasticity. Some important benefits of exercise are:

  • Prevents shortening and/or tightening of muscles; this helps to keep you mobile for as long as possible
  • Improves range of movement (specially for joints); this in turn improves posture and balance
  • Improves circulation through active muscle movement

Since MND results in gradual motor impairment, part of the treatment and care is stem cell therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, and physiotherapy.

A physiotherapist will –

  • Check posture and recommend exercise accordingly
  • Design and develop an exercise schedule that is in keeping with the degree of progression of MND
  • Possibly suggest alternate methods to make up for loss of motor skills and also help with conserving energy; 
  • Insist on breathing techniques that also help clear chest
  • Show how to prevent /recover from falls
  • Provide options on how to manage and possibly reduce fatigue
  • Show caregivers how to help with exercises and also coach them about safe movement and handling techniques

Additionally, a physiotherapist and occupational therapist can perform evaluations and keep a close watch on:

  • Aerobic, endurance, and strength exercises (trunk balance, gait training, limbs relaxation, hydrotherapy, etc.)
  • Functional training and/or stretching, for eg. arm + forearm + hand exercises, thigh + leg + foot exercises
  • Pain management

What are the recommended types of exercises?

MND can affect everyone differently and with varying degrees of intensity. Your physiotherapist will draw up an exercise chart based on your body’s requirement. They will also keep revisiting this chart from time to time, and change/update the chart whenever necessary.

The most recommended and beneficial exercises are:

Active exercises: These are active range of motion exercises like stretching. The muscles are used to their fullest movement without additional support.

Active-assisted exercises: These require additional support or help from your physiotherapist or caregiver. Passive exercises and stretches: These exercises are performed when the patient cannot make any movement. The physiotherapist or caregiver guides the joints to carry out specific movements by supporting and helping you move your limb(s).

Along with a good mix of the above exercises, the physiotherapist must also include:

  1. Breathing techniques to facilitate easier breathing and also clear chest (maintain lung capacity).
  2. Massage or any other hands-on technique approved by the patient. This helps improve circulation, helps the patient relax, reduces pain, stiffening and tightening, etc.
  3. Range-of-Movement (ROM) exercises to maintain steady movement in the joints. These exercises must be done following a certain order, with the joints of one limb exercised in a specific manner before moving to the other limb. Through their full range of motion these exercises strengthen the joints and prevent the stiffening of muscles in the limbs.

Note: Please consult a physiotherapist before beginning any exercise regime. If you experience any pain or discomfort, stop the exercise right away and come back later. If the pain persists, get in touch with your physiotherapist immediately. 

What is the purpose of exercise for those with MND?

The goal of exercising regularly is to keep fit and remain healthy. With MND, there is an additional goal –

To be able to perform everyday functions with relative ease and minimum support

Independence is the key to life. Even an MND diagnosis shouldn’t take that away from an individual. Appropriate exercises under the supervision of a physiotherapist is essential to maintain that independence. 

Fatigue and rest

Fatigue is a very common symptom of MND. It can get amplified further when exercise and/or physical activity are involved. Trainers, therapists, and caregivers must be extremely mindful of this and make enough room for rest and recuperation. Adequate rest ensures the muscles do not become sore and tight. An overly tired body is like an overstimulated body. It cannot come to rest immediately. Have the patient wind down with some simple full body stretches. Ask them to lay on their mat, close their eyes, and tune out. This quiet time also quietens the mind and body.

Treatment and care

Stem cell therapy has seen remarkable improvement in the quality of life of individuals with MND. Stem cells help slow down the rate of neurodegeneration and also have capacity to self-renew, regenerate the cell, and repair damaged tissue. Stem cell therapy has also benefited those with autoimmune, inflammatory, neurological, and orthopaedic diseases. Just because a disease is incurable doesn’t mean the patient has to live a half-life.

Founded by India’s renowned stem cell specialist, Dr Na’eem Sadiq, Plexus offers more than just a ray of hope. Dr. Sadiq and his team of dedicated, compassionate, and highly-experienced stem cell specialists offer you an assurance. That somewhere there is a silver lining. A better life awaits.


What is the best treatment for MND?

There is no single best course of treatment for MND. Your doctor will prescribe a set of therapies and treatments depending on the degree of degeneration. Occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy, nutrition and dietary support are some of the recommended treatments for MND. Additionally, stem cell therapy has seen significant improvement in the quality of life of MND patients.

Can exercise make MND worse?

Exercise gives the patient chances to fight back! MND is a degenerative disease that affects the functioning of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Over a period of time, the patient loses muscle control, has trouble with balance and coordination, and many other associated issues. Exercise gives life to muscles. It makes them more flexible and agile. It lowers the risk of atrophy. 

How do you reverse MND?

Presently, there are no medications or treatments to reverse MND. However, the rate of degeneration can definitely be reduced with timely and appropriate treatment and therapy. 

What are the triggers of MND?

It is difficult to pinpoint an exact cause or trigger of MND. However, scientists and medical experts believe the following to be probable causes:

  •   Exposure to certain toxins and/or chemicals
  •   Exposure to specific viruses
  •   Genetic conditions/factors

Can MND go into remission?

There have been only a few cases with spontaneous remission.

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