Skip to main content

Health library

Back to health library

Rehabilitation helps with multiple sclerosis

A woman on a balance ball uses a stretch band as a physical therapist stands by.

Physical rehabilitation can teach people with multiple sclerosis how to help prevent their symptoms from getting in the way of living.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a hard disease to predict. The symptoms are different for each person, and any one person's symptoms can change over time.

Still, physical rehabilitation (rehab) can help give you some control over the symptoms. Rehab can help strengthen weak muscles and teach you ways to do normal activities in spite of symptoms.

Everyone with MS can benefit from rehab, no matter how mild or severe their symptoms are, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS).

Before you start rehab, your doctor will probably do an evaluation to see what types of therapy you need. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may treat you or refer you to a specialist or support group.

According to the NMSS, rehab can help relieve:

Fatigue. Tiring out easily is one of the most common problems caused by MS. An occupational therapist can help you manage fatigue by teaching you how to conserve energy, plan ahead and work efficiently. 

Trouble moving. Many people with MS have trouble walking or moving around. Moving improperly can cause joint problems such as hip, knee or low back pain.

A doctor or physical therapist can help you get the balance, coordination, upper-body control, strength and endurance you need to move around more easily. Sometimes this will mean giving you a device such as a cane or walker to help you move independently. Many people don't want to use walking tools. But using these devices can help you move independently and with less fatigue and joint pain.

An occupational therapist can teach you ways to complete the activities of daily life such as bathing, using the toilet, doing housework, driving and completing work duties.

Sexual problems. MS can cause men to have trouble getting or maintaining an erection. In women, the disease can cause numbness or lack of lubrication in the genital area. Other symptoms of MS can also contribute to a loss of sexual desire.

Professionals such as neurologists, urologists and sex therapists can help you communicate with your partner and find ways to manage physical symptoms.

Bladder and bowel problems. Common bladder and bowel troubles include increased need to use the restroom, trouble urinating, urinary tract infections, constipation and incontinence. If you're having any of these problems, your doctor can help find the reason and prescribe treatments such as medication and lifestyle and diet changes.

Trouble talking. If MS affects the part of your brain that controls the muscles in your mouth or voice box, you may have trouble speaking or swallowing. A speech therapist can teach you ways to overcome these problems. If you have serious speech problems, you may need to use a voice amplifier or another communication device.

Memory trouble. Some people with MS have trouble remembering things or will feel that they're thinking more slowly than before. A neurologist, an occupational therapist or a psychologist can help you manage these problems and assess whether it's safe for you to be on your own all the time.

Reviewed 8/7/2022

Related stories