Friday, May 26, 2017

Using Tai Chi To Help MS Symptoms

Tai Chi, also called Tai Chi Chuan, is an ancient Chinese martial art that has evolved into a multiple-element form of exercise, featuring slow, gentle, dance-like movements that encourage deep breathing and relaxation, improve balance, and strengthen muscles and joints. I’ve heard Tai Chi referred to as “meditation in motion.” One benefit of Tai Chi is that is doesn’t require any special clothing or equipment. It is one of the mind-body therapies in complementary and alternative medicine that begins where you are and doesn’t push you beyond your abilities, but does encourage you to explore the edges of your comfort zones.

How does Tai Chi help MS?

Several studies have examined the effect of Tai Chi on different aspects of living with MS and its symptoms. In a systematic review of the literature, researchers found evidence that supports the effectiveness of Tai Chi on improving quality of life and functional balance in people living with MS patients. A small number of studies also reported the positive effect of Tai Chi on flexibility, leg strength, gait, and pain. The effect of Tai Chi on fatigue, however, is inconsistent across studies.

Tai Chi and quality of life in MS

Quality of life (QOL) is a helpful measurement in MS studies because it encompasses physical, material, social, and emotional well-being, as well as personal development and physical and social activity. Five studies examining the effect of Tai Chi on QOL in MS were included in this systematic review. In general, MS patients who engaged in Tai Chi sessions over three- to twelve-week time periods experienced significant improvements on subscales of QOL such as pain, emotional well-being, energy, vitality, social function, health distress, physical health, mental health, and overall QOL.

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Benefits of Tai Chi for Multiple Sclerosis

Monday, May 22, 2017

What is Trigeminal Neuralgia?

A sharp pain explodes through your face and jaw. You think that perhaps an invisible bolt of lightning just struck without any warning. You’re not sure what happened, but you do know that you don’t want it ever to happen again. You may have experienced your first acute attack of trigeminal neuralgia.

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN), also known as the tic douloureux, prosopalgia, the “suicide disease,” and Fothergill’s disease, is a facial pain disorder characterized by brief electric shock-like pains that can occur abruptly, typically on only one side of the face and along one or more of the three branches of the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve, which is the fifth cranial nerve, is responsible for sensation in the face and motor function controlling the jaw.

The stabbing pain of TN most often affects the right side of the face. Frequency of attacks can range from one per day to 12 or more per hour. Common triggers of TN include chewing, talking, or smiling; drinking cold or hot fluids; touching, shaving, brushing your teeth, or blowing your nose; or sudden contact with cold air.

An individual can often point out exactly where the pain of TN is felt. In the majority of cases, the pain shoots from the corner of the mouth to the back of the jaw. In fewer cases, the pain spreads from the upper lip or teeth up to and around the eye and eyebrow.

There are two patterns of pain in trigeminal neuralgia. The first pattern is episodic and affects more than 50 percent of patients. The second pattern features constant pain, the mechanisms and development of which are not well understood. In episodic cases, the intensity of the pain typically increases from simply being present to an excruciating pain felt deep in the face in less than 20 seconds. Muscle spasms may accompany the pain.

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MS Signs and Symptoms: What is Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Personalized Treatment for MS or Herd Mentality: What Does Your Neurologist Do?

People diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and their neurologists must make many decisions when it comes to treating the disease. With FDA-approved disease-modifying therapies, it can be challenging to know which one to use, if any.

How do doctors and patients choose? To make an informed decision, neurologists are expected to follow clinical practice guidelines that frequently summarize the available medical evidence. Meanwhile, patients are expected to do their own research and consider lifestyle factors and personal preference, as well as doctor recommendations.

It’s clearly unwise for neurologists to follow outdated clinical guidelines; consider that when the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) published its guidelines in 2002, only four treatment options were available. A less obvious concern is when neurologists ignore current clinical guidelines and instead follow the recommendations of other neurologists they know or experts in the field, a behavior called “herding.”

Herding can be detrimental to patient care, suggests a study published in January 2017 in the journal Patient Preference and Adherence.

What is herding in medicine?

Herding is a phenomenon in which individuals follow the behavior of others rather than making a decision independently. Herding occurs in MS care when one neurologist follows the therapeutic recommendation of a colleague even when this advice is not supported by clinical guidelines.

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Does Your Multiple Sclerosis Specialist Follow the Herd?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Exciting Moments on the Bike: Watch Out For Deer!

With the purchase of an outdoor bicycle last year, a world of possibilities has blossomed for me. My husband, Rob, and I have discovered new adventures and places to explore right in our own community. Just last week, we rode into Washington, D.C., for the first time along the Potomac River. The views were spectacular.

There was one ride last autumn that stands out in my mind. Rob and I packed up our bikes and explored a different part of the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail. The W&OD is one of many former railroad, rails-to-trails corridors in the country. Rails-to-trails are frequently enjoyed by bikers, walkers, runners, rollerbladers, and more. They can get relatively crowded on beautiful days.

During the week of Thanksgiving, Rob and I packed up our bikes and traveled on a portion of the W&OD that we hadn’t seen before. We traveled far west before stopping for a break at a local brewery. I’ve come to learn that brew pubs and bike paths form a mutual symbiotic relationship.

By the time we began our return trip, the sun was beginning to sag in the sky and encounters with walkers on the trail became less frequent. Our handlebar lights lit up the narrow width of the trail as we rode into the growing darkness. At one point, I noticed a family standing next to the side of the trail; they were looking at something nearby. I was briefly puzzled... then I saw it!

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Adventures With MS: Riding With The Deer

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Preparing For My First BikeMS

In anticipation of our first year participating in BikeMS, here are some things I did to get ready.

To get ready for the ride, I still have quite a bit of training and conditioning to do. Not being a seasoned athlete, I realize that I need to be careful in how I approach getting ready. Here are some of the tips and strategies I’ve learned along the way.
  • Get the right fit. For comfort, safety, and efficiency, your bike needs to fit your body and be adjusted to reduce physical stress and maximize the strength of your efforts. Go to a local bike shop for expert advice.
  • Set realistic goals. Since I can’t already ride 30+ miles, I need to build up to that distance. I’m keeping track of my rides with a free phone app (e.g., Strava, MapMyRide) and attempt to increase my average ride by one to three miles each week.
  • Schedule rest. Although it is tempting to think that riding every day will be the best way to prepare, it’s the wrong way to build strength and endurance. Rest days are necessary to allow your body to repair muscle and begin to compensate for the increased physical demand. TrainingPeaks, a free resource for Bike MS participants, emphasizes recovery days and the need for varied levels of workout intensities.
  • Enjoy variety. It’s important not to do the same things every time you go out on the bike. Some training days should feature greater physical demands — increased elevation gain or sprints, for example — or easier, low-intensity spins that keep you moving but don’t wear you out. I like to alternate trails that present different challenges or easier sections.
  • Focus on hydration and nutrition. It’s vital to stay hydrated before, during, and after workouts. The amount of water and enhanced sports drinks you may need depend upon your body, the environment, and your workout demands. The National MS Society offers basic information on hydration and nutrition to get you started.

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BikeMS: Setting Goals and Going the Distance