Staying Motivated Beyond Physical Therapy

  • Last night I attended an event featuring my neurologist and physical therapist at a dinner hosted by an MS drug company.  Thinking really hard, I don’t believe I’ve ever been to this type of dinner/presentation during my six year tenure as an official MS patient.  It was interesting and enjoyable.

    The evening presentations started with a patient advocate who has lived with MS for 22 years.  Her story is inspiring while she provided great accolades to one of the treatment options available by the sponsors of the evening.  The patient was Yvette Rojas, executive director of the MS Center in Louisville, KY. which is associated with the Norton Neuroscience Institute.  Interestingly enough, Yvette was the only presenter of the evening to discuss any particular pharmaceutical treatment option for patients with MS.

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    The next presenter of the evening was Dr. James P. Simsarian (who happens to be my neurologist) of the Neurology Center of Fairfax.  His responsibility of the evening was to give an updated explanation of what researchers know about the course of MS, as it features inflammation near the beginning of the disease and permanent degeneration later on.  He discussed nerve cells, axons, myelin, T-cells, B-cells, etc.

    The 2nd half of Dr. Simsarian’s presentation was titled “Time for Change: MS Exercise, Diet, and Self-Empowerment.”  It was apparent that the slides for this portion of the evening were provided by the evening’s host, MS ActiveSource.  Dr. Simsarian quickly went through the slides adding his personal take on various aspects of the subject similar to the following comment (which is slightly paraphrased):

    “The recommendation to consult your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen is highly overplayed.  Don’t avoid exercise for the next six months just because you are waiting for your appointment to ask me if you should exercise.  I’m telling you now, you should exercise.”  The audience chuckled in response.  I did too.

    The final presenter of the evening was the main reason I attended, Dr. Valerie Gibson.  Val has been my physical therapist, one who specializes in neurological conditions.  Our time was tremendously beneficial and she ‘graduated’ me from physical therapy after six months working together.  That was two years ago and I wanted to say “hi” and let Val know how well I’m doing. 

    Of course Val wanted to know how I was doing and whether I was still keeping up with my workouts.  To be honest, I had let those workouts slip away.  Something about all the traveling I did last year kinda cut into my momentum.  I do need to get back into things and in fact have recently begun riding my stationary bike again.

    Last night’s presentation was a great reminder of how to begin wisely, starting with creating balance between muscle groups.  Imbalance can be caused by many things, including spasticity and disuse which are common in multiple sclerosis.  It makes sense that stronger muscles which get used more may be the ones which become shortened and stiff.  One must be methodical in his/her approach to stretch and strengthen muscle pairs (eg. calves/shins, thighs/hamstrings, abducters/adducters, biceps/triceps, pectoral and back muscles, etc).  I needed this reminder.

  • I also needed the reminder that in physical therapy, it is important to focus on flexibility, strength training, and aerobic exercise.  To achieve cardiovascular benefits, it is recommended that you exercise 3-5 times per week.  To attain muscular fitness benefits, it is recommended that you train two days per week.

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    Regarding motivation….“Only one-third of those who begin an exercise program are still exercising by the end of the first year.”  Here are some tips to help you stay motivated if you are working on your own to improve strength and flexibility:

    • Start an Exercise Log or Journal to chart your progress and provide motivation.
    • Find a fitness partner.
    • Schedule your workouts.
    • Make exercise non-negotiable.

    What do you recommend to stay motivated when your physical well-being is at stake?


    Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.

Published On: May 21, 2011