Multiple sclerosis, also known as MS, is a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and causes weakness, numbness, and pain throughout the body.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, more than 2.3 million people worldwide are diagnosed with MS, and approximately 1 million people over age 18 in the United States. MS’s wide range of symptoms can differ (including in severity) from person to person, often being unpredictable and challenging to manage. However, while there is no cure, there are solutions to cope with the everyday struggles of the disease.
The Symptoms of MS
With MS affecting both the brain and spinal cord, there are a variety of symptoms that can arise. Early signs of MS can show vision loss in one eye, balance issues, and numbness and tingling in the extremities. Other common symptoms include:
- Vision (blurred or dim, loss of color vision)
- Loss of coordination (ataxia)
- Memory and Concentration
- Gait disorder (difficulty walking)
- Loss of bladder control
- Paralysis (partially or fully)
With MS being so unpredictable, individuals can show vastly different symptoms, even at the same stages of the disease. When the body has flare-ups or ‘attacks’ on the body’s immune system, it can come at the worst moments.
The Immune System Attacks Healthy Nerve Tissue
MS causes several adverse effects on the body, from digestion to the circulatory system, but specifically, it’s categorized as an immune-mediated disease due to the body’s immune system attacking healthy nerve tissue. MS causes chronic inflammation and pain while simultaneously damaging the body, raising the chance of developing other diseases like stroke or heart disease. Some medications have successfully suppressed the immune system and slowed the progress of MS, but this often comes with the risk of developing an infection.
Pain and the MS Hug
Pain is a common symptom of MS, estimated to be experienced by 75% of patients. The disease causes damage to the neurons in the brain and spine, resulting in a feeling of burning and aching, often in the legs, feet, or even arms. When experiencing an MS Hug, some feel tightness around the stomach or chest (increasing at night), after working out, or with temperature changes. MS can also cause muscles to spasm (often in the later stages of MS), where a touch, movement, or even emotion can trigger pain. While the pain is sudden, it generally passes shortly after, with the occasional situations of lingering pain.
Pain Management for MS Symptoms
With no cure, MS is a disease that millions learn to cope with, including managing symptoms as they come. The FDA has approved several medications for patients long-term, attempting to slow the progression when flare-ups occur. For extreme situations, doctors can prescribe corticosteroids, quickly reducing inflammation caused by the disease. When seeking pain management, 30% of patients who experienced MS symptoms used medications, but results showed a low satisfaction rate and a low rating for quality of life.
While some find relief in traditional methods of corticosteroids and other medications, there are a handful of natural alternatives to reduce pain and other symptoms. Keeping a healthy diet free from processed foods and refined sugars while maintaining an exercise regimen can protect against the disease and minimize symptoms when flare-ups occur. Anyone looking for simple relief might find that cold therapy is the perfect solution.
Cold Therapy for MS Relief
Cold water immersion therapy is proven to provide relief from inflammation and pain, naturally support the immune system, and help to reduce stress. All three are common symptoms for those with MS.
Gait disorders often lead to reduced physical activity for people with MS. A study of ten participants with MS (ages 29 to 74 years) underwent vigorous harness-supported treadmill training in a 60-degree Fahrenheit room three times a week for ten weeks. During this time, function, brain repair, and inflammation were examined before, after, and three months after the training sessions. As a result, those with MS showed an improvement (and sustainability) in walking, fitness levels, fatigue, and overall quality of life.
In addition to pain management, cold therapy also decreases depression. According to John Hopkins Medicine, depression affects 50% of patients diagnosed with MS and is often related to stress from the disease. Exposure to cold water immersion therapy activates the parasympathetic nervous system, and the brain releases norepinephrine (the relaxation hormone).
The Big Question: Is Ice Barrel the right choice for MS patients?
As with any changes to your therapy regime, check with your doctor about adding cold therapy. People with auto-immune disorders, like MS, have found success adding cold therapy for a holistic solution to their pain, inflammation, and depression. The Ice Barrel provides a safe and effective solution for taking ice baths and helping you get back to life. A few minutes of cold is worth a lifetime of health.
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