Top symptom management tips from our Physiotherapist

MS Physiotherapist Jen Pietersz

We'd like you to meet our new Senior MS Physiotherapist Jen Pietersz. Jen has a passion for person-centered and holistic care (she will try to answer all your questions) and brings over 5 years’ experience working with people to help reach their goals.

A bit about Jen.... Jen is a mum of an active boy and a cat (who seems to want to be a dog). She loves reading – mostly mystery fiction and really looks forward to the day when she can travel overseas again! Jen enjoys continually developing her skills as a Senior Physiotherapist and is excited to join the team here at MS Limited, to provide care and support to this wonderful community.

How can physiotherapy help someone with MS?

MS is such a varied disease and can affect every system in your body – where to start? Physiotherapy can help in many ways – from helping you understand MS better to helping you learn to breathe again. We help you to improve your balance, manage pain, fatigue, dizziness, incontinence, and increase your exercise abilities. Here at MS, I work within a team of allied health professionals, so I can refer you to get help with any questions I can't answer so the sky is the limit really, and how physiotherapy can help you is really guided by you.

What can someone who visits a physiotherapist expect?

When you meet a physio for the first time, they will complete an assessment that includes (but isn't limited to) asking how you about your personal and MS history, and how MS affects you, your current symptoms, what treatment you are on, what exercise you do, information about your family and lifestyle, and what your personal goals are. Then we will do some tests to look at how you manage tasks and come up with a plan for achieving your goals.

What can people do at home to assist with their treatment?

Do your exercises. Also keep a record of how you are going with what we are working on. Enjoy a healthy diet, exercise, and reducing stress (yes – I know this is often an oxymoron) are some of the best things you can do to manage your symptoms and maintain your current level of function and quality of life.

What are the top 3 good daily habits people can start right now to assist in their symptom management?

Good daily habits in MS are pretty similar to good daily habits for most people:

  • in terms of physiotherapy – exercise to maintain or improve your strength, balance, and fitness. Apart from the physical benefits of exercise, it is good for your mental health too. Which brings me to my next point
  • meditate – this is not specific to physio, and is definitely good for your mental health, but is important. A big part of meditation is awareness of breath, and breathing is actually a really important life skill – something that can be impacted by lesions in MS
  • a healthy diet is so important and is a daily choice, which brings me to my last point –get a good professional to help you if you can, for each of these things - an exercise physiologist, physiotherapist, dietician, continence nurse, psychologist, the list of people who should be in your "team" of health professionals is much longer than just your neurologist and is only limited by your symptoms and needs.

What are the top 3 things should people avoid?

These are different for each person but generally...

  • Avoid overdoing it. This particularly relates to exercise, but also generally. If you have a massive day, and then need to spend 3 days recovering, there is a lot of fitness to be lost while you recover. Which may leave you in a worse place than before you overdid it.
  • Know your symptoms – if you are really affected by heat, or cold, or by walking a lot, avoid those things. Which doesn't mean to say don't walk at all – just don't walk until you feel like your feet are going to fall off. Stop well before you get to the point of exhaustion.
  • Avoid stress – why do these questions all have the same answers? Because the major things you can do to manage your disease are the same. Stress causes an increase in cortisol (a hormone in your body) which was important for helping you run away from lions in days gone by; it still has its place, but high levels are bad for your mental health and can exacerbate your symptoms.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

  • Not everything you experience while living with MS will be directly related to your disease. Sometimes pain is pain, or dizziness is a problem with your vestibular system, not directly the nerves controlling it. It is always important to ask your doctor if your symptoms can only be attributed to MS, or if there could be something else going on.
  • Also, keep a record of your symptoms, both for yourself and for when you go to your doctor. There is a great app called Emilyn which is specifically for monitoring your MS symptoms, it only takes a minute to complete notes for each day. That way, when you get to your doctor and they ask the open question of "how you are going?" you can remember everything you have been experiencing, not get home and think "darn, I should have told the doctor about that."
  • Add reminders to drink water throughout the day – you could set a reminder on your phone or place a sticky note on the fridge, for example.

Jen has now expanded our service to be available in Blackburn, VIC. Dr Phu continues to be available at our Lidcombe Gym, NSW. Both clinicians are available for Telehealth appointments so you can access them from anywhere. If you would like to find out more about our MS Physiotherapy service or connect with Jen - send us a message or call us directly on 1800 042 138.

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