The following article will cover walking problems, as they relate to Multiple Sclerosis (MS). There are many walking aids that are available to patients and we will discuss those more at the end of this article. We will discuss more in depth the value of an AFO (ankle foot orthosis) and the WalkAide. However, to start we are going to cover some general information about Multiple Sclerosis to make sure people have an idea about what the disease can do.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease. It typically affects both the brain and spinal cord of an individual. The brain and spinal cord comprises our central nervous system. Men are effected more than women with this disease and it typically shows signs of onset between the ages of 20 and 40.
THE MYELIN SHEATH
The myelin sheath is the protective cover that surrounds the nerve cells. When MS begins to occur the myelin sheath is damaged an in turn damage can be done to the nerve cells. As a result of this damage to the nerve, the patient’s impulses are slowed down, if not, stopped. Nerve damage happens when there is inflammation caused by the body’s immune cells attacking the nervous system. The target areas of repeated episodes of inflammation can be in any area of the brain, spinal cord or even the optic nerve.
SEVERAL SYMPTOMS OF MS
Symptoms associated with MS are :
- Loss of balance, which can attribute to walking problems.
- Numbness and Muscle Spasms
- Overall mobility challenges, usually occuring with the arms and leg
- Small movement coordination can be compromised
WALKING AIDS THAT HELP MS
There are various walking aids that help and assist individuals coping with multiple sclerosis. Walking aids can assist people with everyday situations such as a community walk or even walking around their home.
Some of the best walking aids available are listed below. We mention a cane, but with hesitation, because there are other much more discreet options that are available that can help people.
- AFOs (ankle foot orthoses) – AFOs are braces that can essentially help people walk with a more heel to toe gait pattern. You might wonder what this means exactly and in essence we are just talking about holding your foot up when you walk. As a result, you will not be dragging your toe (which might be referred to as a toe to heel gait pattern, by some). These braces are usually made from plastic and can fit in most pairs of shoes that an individual owns. These types of supports can also help support your ankle movements from side to side as well. All of this can happen without being seen, because these supports are easily hidden under a pair of pants. Some of our patient’s have referred to this device as being a “miracle”.
- WalkAide (FDA approved) – The WalkAide is another device helps people to walk. One of the groups of patients that can benefit the most from this type of device are those that have Multiple Sclerosis. This FDA approved device can help a person improve their walk by providing impulses to the peroneal nerve. These electrical impulses (they are small impulses) can help to bring your foot up as you walk. Another bonus of the device is that it can help to coordinate communication between your brain and the limb that you are now able to move again. Research studies have been established to warrant this benefit alone for patients.
- Walking Cane: Of course, there is the cane, the more commonly used device to aid in walking. These devices can be help with balance, but many are not the right height for patients, nor do the users of the device always get good information because it was not supplied by a true medical professional.
By choosing an AFO or WalkAide, your chances of walking with free hands goes up dramatically.
Note: This is health information not medical advice. It is not wise to just stop using a cane to try and walk better. The devices we mention here can help you but they should always be provided by a medical professional.
Rinella Orthotics, Inc. services people in chicagoland. Give us today for a free screening for your next walking aid / AFO (ankle foot orthosis).