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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition that disrupts messages between the brain and body. This means there are certain things that are more difficult for people with MS to do. Particularly if they have trouble with balance and coordination.

balance and coordination
Furniture Walking and Cane Balance
Source: MS Society

One of these problems is climbing stairs. While stairs can be daunting for someone who has MS. Many can learn how to get up and around the task with the help of adaptive stairs.

Adaptive stairs are stairs that provide people with MS and their caregivers more mobility. Adaptive stairs are stairs that have a built-in staircase for easier stair climbing.

People with Multiple Sclerosis use assistive devices such as walkers and wheelchairs. But depending on where they live, they may not be able to use all the features found in adaptive stairs. If they can’t use the steps in the stairwell where they live. They buy walkers or treadmills from stores like MyPillow to use at home.

Now that you know about adaptive stairs and what they can provide, you might wonder…how do I set them up for myself? It’s not as simple as buying one from MyPillow.

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Balance and Coordination

Adaptive stairs need to be installed following specific installation instructions. Which could mean going through several people to get it done.

A survey found that more than 50% of surveyed consumers don’t have an established system up and running. However, the installation process is cost-prohibitive for most individuals, meaning it leaves extra time and money on the healthcare bill for people with MS.

Here’s how adaptive stairs work. The adaptive stairwell has peripheral straps connected to a central carousel board. The carousel board uses motors to scroll a preset number of steps or floors every time the user takes a step. The motor’s technology has eight discrete steps that it alternates through. Route settings allow the motors to generate a staircase to mimic the layout of a walking route.

If you go through all this trouble, there’s no guarantee that your adaptive stairs will be so convenient for your loved ones. But if they can get up and around it, getting up and about is half the battle. Stairs are the physical manifestation of your movement disorder. Often it’s much easier to get under one than to get up and around it, especially when there are people around to help you up and get around.

Adaptive Stairs

Knowing how to get up and around stairs can go a long way in supporting your independence when struggling with coordination.

This might manifest itself in things like balance, coordination or manual movement.

Twice a week, Stacey Cameron, PhD, of the Centre for Applied Integrative Physiology at the University of Waterloo, Canada, takes 17 people with MS and has them run in a series of teams of two.

They take turns running on their own, with their hands and feet under their arms, and they run as in a normal workout.

Stacey Cameron

she explains.

Then we take their best runs and mix them in with a control run of their choosing. We measure their coordination, and what happens within the brain.

Stacey Cameron

What this Shows for balance and coordination

There are two main takeaways from Cameron’s research. The first is that MS-related balance and coordination deficits have multiple brain responses.

The deficits are not simply divided among the left and right hemispheres, they show differences in the brain pathways that send information to different brain regions.

Matt Davis

explains Matt Davis, PhD, director of the Centre for Applied Integrative Physiology.

What does this mean for you? Davis suggests that if you frequently have coordination issues, make sure the workout you’re doing is going to challenge your coordination. If you’re confident, but your coordination is compromised, you might want to reconsider doing your normal workout routine. If you don’t want to run, this doesn’t mean you can’t do other simple activities.

We know that there are areas where there is dysfunction.

Matt Davis

The Bottom Line

That means there is an opportunity. Assuming that voluntary movement is actually helping, given that there is a limitation of how much we can control through medication, it would be an interesting area to look at.

Matt Davis

A move called dynamic alternating muscle machine (DAMM) helps people with MS improve their movement. If you don’t move regularly, you may have less range of motion in your fingers, legs, shoulders, or elbows. This loss of range of motion affects how you perform everyday tasks such as writing, using tools, driving, or lifting objects.

Your mind struggles to think clearly and you may experience the feeling that you’re moving slowly, or that you’re playing a game with a ball, and that your vision to the side is misdirecting your gaze.

Physical Mobility

This is a common symptom of reduced physical mobility where you think you’re not moving fast enough, or that you can’t do certain things. Moving regularly will help you reset that state of discrepancy in your sense of being in the physical world and restore your feeling of being in control.

But you won’t fully escape a mobility deficit until you simulate the feeling of having good mobility. Moving around in the same way day after day will help you regain that sense of psychological control.

You don’t need to go for a run or run yourself, but you may use other methods to aid this process. The APOPO Method aims to get as much blood flowing to the muscles as possible, to increase circulation. Through their YouTube channel, the APOPO Method has a video on how this can be done exactly.

Running is another physical skill where you can demonstrate good movement by repetitive training.

APOPO Method

The APOPO method is based on moving around in various positions and varying the speed and style of your movements. You could alternate walking and running, or alternate carrying objects and doing other activities such as chores or doing housework. Such an exercise regimen over a long period is even better for improving peripheral circulation because it takes a while for your blood to get pumped around.

There is a video from the APOPO Method giving an example of how blood flow can be enhanced.

Some people who suffer from MS also find it difficult to engage in goal-directed activity. The mental struggles that are characteristic of the condition can make it difficult to concentrate and perform even the simplest of tasks. There are a few techniques you can employ to lessen this, or at least mimic the artificial cognition that people with MS experience while engaged in goal-directed tasks.

Goal setting is a common behaviour to adopt for staying motivated in everyday life. In simple terms, setting goals involves deciding what you want to do within a certain timeframe.

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A lot of work has gone into bringing you this post. We hope you found it interesting and informative. If you have a question, please ask it in the comments at the foot of this post.

If you don’t have a question you can use the comment to say “Hi”. If you have MS – stay strong and follow the warrior code.

How to Maintain Balance and Coordination When You Have MS

Stephen Walker is a blogger who has been living with Multiple Sclerosis or MS since 1994. He devotes a lot of time to researching this dreadful autoimmune disease, looking for answers and possible treatments.

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