One of the most fearsome consequences of multiple sclerosis is immobility. People with MS may grow increasingly worried about walking unsteadily; needing to use a cane, arm crutches, or wheelchair; or a reduced ability to be safe while moving from one place to another. Living with MS also means an increased risk of falling, which is more likely to happen at home, during the day, or in the midst of normal activities like turning, walking, climbing stairs, or while transitioning between body postures (Gunn et al, 2014).
Early in my time of living with MS, I remember a day when our family went out to eat at an unfamiliar restaurant. Lunch was excellent and we had leftovers to take home. As we left the restaurant and made our way back to the car, I suddenly found myself face-down in the main entrance to the parking lot, with our leftovers a couple of feet away on the ground. I had stepped off the curb and “tried to walk on air, apparently,” I told my neurologist. I had not become fully aware before this incident that I couldn’t feel my feet, nor the ground beneath them. The lack of sensation significantly increased my risk of falling.
Factors contributing to the risk of falling
Physical symptoms of MS -- such as weakness, spasticity, loss of balance, dizziness, sensory deficits, and tremors -- can contribute to falls. Fatigue, heat intolerance, vision problems, and cognitive changes can increase fall risk, as well. Behavioral risk factors include deconditioning and inactivity. It is important to stay physically active so that you can remain physically active. (That sounds obvious, I know.) Finally, environmental conditions can contribute to falls, including poor lighting, uneven or unsteady surfaces, clutter and obstacles, and even your choice of clothing. And in a bitter kind of irony, both overconfidence and the fear of falling increase the risk of falls.
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Reducing Falls in MS