Although there are theories, we have no clear proof as to how multiple sclerosis (MS) begins. Thankfully, there are ways to manage MS and, in some cases, slow progression. If you or a loved one has the disease, it’s helpful to understand the four types of MS. Let’s look at what MS is, as well as what the four stages are.
What Is MS?
Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body’s own immune system attacks the protective covering (sheath) of nerve fibers in the body, which causes a problem with communication between the body and the brain. Eventually, MS can lead to the deterioration of the nerves, a loss of movement control, and even an inability to walk. However, like many mysterious autoimmune diseases, MS sometimes goes into remission for long periods of time, and many with MS never progress past an earlier stage.
CIS (clinically isolated syndrome) is not a diagnosis of MS, but it means the patient shows signs of MS. The signs must last at least 24 hours and consist of neurological symptoms caused by inflammation in the central nervous system and also demyelination, which is the loss of protection around the nerves.
Many with CIS never go on to receive a diagnosis of MS. However, when lesions are found on the brain during an MRI scan, the likelihood of another CIS episode and possible MS diagnosis increases greatly.
RRMS (relapsing-remitting MS) is the most commonly diagnosed type of MS. It’s characterized by new or increased attacks on the nervous system. Often with RRMS, patients go into remission partially or completely, which means some or all symptoms may disappear. When it returns, remission may happen again, or some symptoms may disappear while other symptoms become permanent.
This stage is considered active (relapses and evidence of new activity on MRI), not active, worsening, or not worsening.
It’s not known why remission happens for some and not others, and there is no way to predict when symptoms might strike again. During remission stages, MS doesn’t necessarily come back worse, and new symptoms (rather than old ones) may appear. Unfortunately, these qualities are part of the disease’s mystery.
SPMS (secondary progressive MS) sometimes follows RRMS. SPMS means the disease has progressed further and neurological function is worsening. As with RRMS, this stage is considered active (evidence of MRI activity over a period of time and/or relapses), not active, progressive (accumulating symptoms), or not progressive.
PPMS (primary progressive MS) is the worsening of neurological symptoms from the beginning or the onset of symptoms. There is no remission of symptoms. It’s characterized as active, not active, with progression, or without progression. Only 15% of those diagnosed with MS are considered in the PPMS stage.
There are many treatments for MS, the most common being medication, therapy, and self-care. Let’s take a look at each.
There are several medications that may help in the treatment of all stages of MS. Each medication usually falls under one of the following categories:
Immunotherapy is used for the treatment of several autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases attack the body’s tissues. The concept behind immunotherapy is to suppress the immune system, which is trying to attack the body. Therefore, immunotherapy often treats MS.
Steroids and Anti-inflammatories
Steroids and anti-inflammatories are used to treat the inflammation of tissues often caused by MS.
Some chemotherapies, such as Mitoxantrone, are helpful in treating some patients with MS. During the attack on the body’s tissues, white blood cells are used by the disease as part of the attack. Chemotherapy kills white blood cells; that’s why it is sometimes used as a therapy.
Therapy comes in many forms, and for individuals with MS, those forms are often counseling, hippotherapy, physical therapy, support groups, and acupuncture.
Counseling helps those suffering from MS. After all, this disease is a scary diagnosis and a lot to take in. As the disease progresses, having a counselor to discuss fears and anxiety can help.
Similar to counseling, support groups comprised of others with MS help alleviate anxiety and the lonely feeling that comes along with the diagnosis. Support groups are very effective at preventing depression and loneliness.
Acupuncture is the ancient art of inserting thin needles into the body to target certain points and relieve symptoms or improve habits and feelings. It’s considered an alternative medicine, and some with MS find it helpful.
Physical therapy uses physical activity to help patients with physical difficulties return to as much normal activity as possible. A physical therapist consults with the patient and the patient’s doctor to come up with a plan that works well for them.
Hippotherapy, also called equine therapy, is designed to help those who suffer from neurological movement disorders, such as MS. The first goal of hippotherapy is to improve mental health—with the belief that everything stems from there.
While using horses, mental health improves as the patient grows close with the horse through care and trust. Physically, riding a horse improves balance and strength. This is often very beneficial for MS patients who are losing their ability to walk or control muscle movement.
Self-care can consist of many things, but it often includes meditation, massages, enjoying hobbies, eating healthy, and getting exercise. Self-care is important for everyone, and those with MS benefit greatly from it.
The first step in living with MS is understanding the four types of MS; from there, you can create a plan for yourself in an effort to slow progression and live with any symptoms you have. Consult with your doctor and follow their instructions when planning to try MS therapies or medications.
At Chariot Innovations, we believe strongly in the benefits of hippotherapy for those with MS. We created the MiraColt so that everyone can experience the natural gait of a horse, which has been shown to help those struggling with movement disorders.
When using the MiraColt as a physical therapy device, the motion patterns of riding a horse are emulated. This engages many systems of the body, including cognitive, neuromotor, and sensory. The outcome is often improved movement and muscle control. Contact us—we can answer all of your questions about how hippotherapy and using the MiraColt can improve your MS symptoms.