Ask the Doc: CrossFit & Multiple Sclerosis

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by DR. MEGAN HERSH|DPT
Could you share an article on MS and CrossFit? I am seeing a lot of people with MS (including myself) who do CrossFit. I was doing it before I was diagnosed, but I am seeing an increase of folks with autoimmune disorders doing awesome and keeping up w the rest of their box mates!

Ask the Doc: CrossFit & Multiple Sclerosis

What is MS?

First off, what is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?  MS is a disease of the central nervous system that disrupts communication between the brain and the body. It is an inflammatory demyelinating disease involving the brain and the spinal cord. It is very unpredictable — with the cause being unknown — and the symptoms ranging from mild fatigue and vision problems to debilitating spasticity, bladder problems, dizziness, pain, and complete inability to walk or function.

In the past, many physicians felt that it was harmful for those with MS to exercise. There were fears that exercise would not be tolerated or that physical activity could make MS worse. In particular, doctors were concerned about the possibility that the increase in core body temperature that occurs with exercise could be detrimental to patients with MS.

Studies have now shown instead that exercise can be beneficial for individuals with multiple sclerosis. A properly performed program of physical activity can increase muscle strength, improve exercise tolerance, elevate mood, and improve mobility.
There is currently no cure for MS; however, numerous studies have shown that exercise does help to improve quality of life in individuals with this disease. In fact, numerous studies to date have discovered significant improvements in exercise capacity, quality of life, and level of fatigue from exercise.

CrossFit has been known to push people to their limits, but it is important to realize the line that needs to be drawn between a good workout and what is safe.
In my experience in the health and wellness environment, I have worked with many individuals with MS.  Not only did I grow up in a household with my mother who has secondary progressive MS, I worked as an exercise specialist at the University of Utah and have seen numerous goals met and plenty of success from exercise. In my time working in the MS wellness program at the University of Utah, I witnessed numerous benefits, including improved cognition and social life, as well as those that were previously non ambulatory able to walk again. Due to the wide range and unpredictable symptoms for those with MS, it is difficult to generalize the best exercise choice. As with any situation, exercise programs should be accustomed to the particular individual and based on what they can do and their possible potential.

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