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4 Daily Stretches for People with MS

Let PhysioBoard and these simple stretches help you manage MS symptoms.

Ahh... it feels good to stretch, especially when you're prone to muscle stiffness. Regular physical activity and stretching are important for everyone to maintain strength and flexibility. However, for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) it can mean the difference between continued mobility and worsening symptoms. Lack of exercise and stretching can lead to joint contractures, stiffness, and pain. Everyone with MS, regardless of his or her abilities, needs regular exercise and stretching to feel their best.

Stretching in particular can help improve range of motion and relieve pain and stiffness. Stretching decreases muscle tightness, improves flexibility and prevents loss of full range of motion. This is important because a limited range of motion can cause muscle imbalances, postural problems, and falls.

Relieving Spasticity and Weakness

One of the most common and frustrating symptoms of MS is spasticity or muscle spasms, the involuntary tightening or stiffness of a muscle (sometimes painfully), which occur when a muscle is quickly stretched or moved. This condition can interfere with normal functioning and restorative sleep. Muscle weakness is also a common issue for people with MS. However, by improving flexibility, stretching counteracts the reduced range of motion and muscle spasms caused by the disease. Stretching is also important for strengthening weakened muscles and improving balance and coordination.

In addition to taking your medications and seeing your physician regularly, a daily regime of stretching can help you tackle some of the symptoms of MS, while also reducing stress.

The Basics of Stretching

Stretching is defined as extending a muscle and holding it in that position for 20-40 seconds. It takes that long for the muscle to “warm up” and fully lengthen. Always use a gentle approach to stretching – stretch the muscle as far as you are able without pain. Do not force a stretch or push too far, which may cause injury! If you’re unsure about starting a stretching routine, consider talking with your physician or physical/occupational therapist first.

These basic moves, as recommended by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society are a good place to start your daily stretching routine.

1. Cervical Rotation

Note: Whenever you stretch your head or neck, try to be extra gentle! Keep movements slow and controlled.

  • Begin in a standing or sitting position, facing forward.

  • Slowly turn your head to the left, as if you’re looking over your left shoulder, holding this position to a count of five, and then slowly turn to the other side.

  • Repeat this motion two to three times.

2. Knee to Chest

Note: This is a good stretch to do first thing in the morning. It loosens areas that are prone to tightness in MS patients, especially the back and hips.

  • Lying flat on your back, legs fully extended, bring your right knee to your chest and hold for 30 seconds. As you breath, pull the knee a bit closer to your chest on your exhale and release on your inhale.

  • Repeat the stretch with your left knee.

  • Now, bring both knees into your chest. Again, hold for 30-40 seconds.

  • Deep breathing during this stretch can deepen the stretch and be relaxing.

3. Bridge

Note: This stretch uses your glutes and abdomen, but also stretches the hips.

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and your arms flat at your sides.

  • Lift your hips upward slowly, hold for a count of ten, and then lower them.

  • Repeat 2-3 times.

  • Keep looking straight up at the ceiling so you’re not putting pressure on your neck.

4. Spinal Twist

Note: This stretch maintains spinal mobility, which can alleviate back pain.

  • Lie on your back with knees slightly bent and place feet flat on the floor.

  • Put your left hand on your right knee and slowly lower your knee to the left side of your body.

  • Then extend your right arm out to the side and turn your head to the right.

  • Hold that position for 30 seconds.

  • Slowly bring knee back to starting position.

  • Repeat on the other side.

There are many other great stretches such as shoulder rotations, wrist and ankle extensions and hip abductions that can help you manage MS symptoms. Please talk to your physician or therapist about the best stretches and exercises for you.

But what if I can’t get down and up from the floor? Let PhysioBoard help!

Muscle weakness and balance issues can make it extremely difficult for some people with MS to get down and up from the floor, which makes stretching and exercising challenging. Though some people resort to exercising or stretching in bed, a mattress is not an ideal surface. Sinking into the mattress can cause poor posture and back strain when exercising and stretching. Though it’s better than nothing, using your bed is not recommended by physical therapists – unless you have a PhysioBoard!

The PhysioBoard transforms any bed into an effective, raised exercise surface. It’s a firm, padded surface that is sturdy, yet lightweight. Simply put PhysioBoard on your bed, do your stretches and/or exercises, and then remove it and store it behind a door or in a closet. If you have a spare bedroom, you might even leave PhysioBoard on the bed for added convenience.

The PhysioBoard provides a safe, raised surface - much like an exercise bed at your physical or occupational therapy office, but at home. Because it weighs only 11 pounds, almost anyone can easily lift it and place it on a bed.

Don’t let your inability to get down and up from the floor prevent you from doing beneficial stretches and exercises! PhysioBoard makes it possible to stay active.

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