Physical therapy & MS

Watch Nancy D. discuss the potential benefits of physical therapy in MS care


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Understanding Physical Therapy

Physical therapy may not be right for everyone. Talk to your healthcare team before making any decisions. Not every physical therapist will offer all of the services described in this video.

Hi. My name is Nancy Dollenmeyer. I’m a physical therapist from St. Louis, Missouri. I have been MS Certified since 2009, and I have been working with people with multiple sclerosis (MS) since 2003. I’m here today to talk about the benefits of physical therapy in MS care. The first thing I would like to do is give you a list of problem areas that a physical therapist can assist with. You might notice items on this list that you would never expect a physical therapist to be able to help with.

Some of these problem areas can include things such as weakness, spasticity, balance, flexibility, visual deficits, dizziness, fatigue, walking and mobility problems, pain, incontinence, and pelvic floor rehab.

Many of us support an annual physical therapy evaluation. People tend to see their dentist, primary care physician, and other healthcare providers on an annual basis. Why not see a physical therapist on a regular basis to get a baseline assessment of your physical function?

As physical therapists, we’re often the first provider of care in a rehab setting. It’s important that we also screen for other services that you might benefit from—services such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, psychological services, and other forms of care.

What type of things bring a person to physical therapy? You might have experienced a recent relapse. You might be noticing changes in your physical function: falling, near-falling, or weakness.

You may not have a regular exercise program. Maybe you’ve never started an exercise program. Maybe your exercise program is not working for you currently, and you would like some instruction on how to improve.

Working with a physical therapist


Physical therapy may not be right for everyone. Talk to your healthcare team before making any decisions. Not every physical therapist will offer all of the services described in this video.

A physical therapy evaluation consists of an assessment of your current function. The therapist and the patient work together in order to set mutual goals that can be achieved over time.

There are two basic types of physical therapy. The first is considered restorative therapy, where we are trying to improve function and decrease impairments. The second type of therapy is considered compensatory therapy. In compensatory therapy, we are looking at modifying your tasks, your environment, and possibly your equipment to make sure those things are meeting your current needs.

What are some common misconceptions about physical therapy? That it’s going to hurt, that you can’t make improvements. Those things are not true.

I feel that a good physical therapist really looks at the whole picture with regards to MS care. We want to make sure that we’re working with your entire team. We’re certainly working with your physician and your nurses, but we also work with other providers, such as orthotists, wheelchair and equipment vendors, and other members of your team.

I do feel that it’s important for a person with MS to work with a physical therapist who has experience working with those with neurological conditions. The National MS Society, on their website, allows a person to search for providers of MS care. They work with MS centers throughout the United States and the world in order to develop a better partnership, to make sure that people are receiving the best care possible.

Thank you so much for your time today. 


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