9 Surprising Things That Help With MS

by Lisa Emrich Patient Advocate

When it comes to living with multiple sclerosis (MS), there are several little things that can make a big difference in how you feel and function on a daily basis. Here are some of my favorite things that help me live better with MS.

Man using an exercise strap to stretch his legs in the morning.
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A tool to help with morning exercise

Even before I get out of bed each morning, I take a moment to stretch my legs and arms. For my legs, I really like the green “Original Stretch Out Strap” that my physical therapist recommended. I place a foot in the strap and use leverage to gently stretch the back of my calves and hamstrings in various ways. It seems to wake up the muscles, making my walking noticeably smoother, while I feel stronger. Ideally, I stretch a few more times throughout the day as well.

Jar opening device.
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An easy device for opening stubborn jars

I find nothing quite so frustrating in the kitchen as a jar that refuses to open, causing pain as I try to twist the lid free. My favorite solution is a plastic device called the JarKey (formerly call the Jar Pop!). It effectively breaks the seal on a closed jar and allows the lid to spin off with less effort. Then it’s up to you to keep the outer surface of the jar and the inner surface of the lid clean to avoid future sticking problems.

Calm woman at the sea.
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A patient and positive attitude goes a long way

I don’t mean acting like a “patient” but instead fostering a sense of calm and patience with myself and others. It’s not always easy to do; it can actually take a lot of practice and hard work. But if I focus on forgiving myself and others for perceiving deficiencies and celebrate even minor strengths, I become more of a cheerleader and tend to reinforce positivity in my thoughts.

Couple meeting with a financial advisor.
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A financial planner can assist

One of the best things I did after my MS diagnosis was hire a financial planner. It was something I meant to do for years, but never felt an urgent need to do. MS changed that — I knew I had to get a handle on my resources to plan for the future. MS can be extraordinarily expensive, but I’ve been able to save and invest money with the financial planner’s guidance. Most importantly, my planner helps me to strategize.

Man cuddling with his french bulldog.
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Animals and pets can help us through dark days

Sometimes MS can make it difficult to care for yourself, so the thought of about caring for someone else can be daunting. I have three cats, and sometimes it can be a challenge to manage all of their needs. But in exchange for food, water, clean litter, and lots of love and cuddles, I receive huge benefits in return. My cats are playmates, confidants, calm influencers, and snuggle bears. They make me smile, and that alone helps my MS.

Cutting an avocado.
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A healthy diet can help with MS

While I contend that there is no single “MS diet,” I'm finding huge personal benefits from altering my diet. By significantly reducing my intake of sugar, grains, and starch, I’ve experienced reduced fatigue and increased mobility and self-confidence. Knowing that something as simple as actively choosing what I eat will affect how I feel helps me to take control of my life with MS.

Spinning class
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Physical activity and exercise is key to feeling better

Movement is one of the most important things that helps my MS. Even small gestures like bending forward in a chair to stretch my back seems to reduce numbness in my limbs somewhat. Staying physically active and finding simple exercises that you enjoy can improve your health and quality of life. Cycling keeps me moving. And research is showing that exercise can protect your nervous system against attack.

Support group.
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Community engagement shows you’re not alone with MS

Connecting with someone who truly understands what you’re going through is priceless. Support groups and the online MS community can be fantastic places to talk with other people who really “get MS.” Whether looking for an empathetic ear, tips or suggestions, or the desire to help others, getting involved helps both you and others to face this disease together. With the friends I’ve made through the MS community, I never feel alone.

Man looking out at scenic mountain range.
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A change of scenery can work wonders

Getting outside and engaging with nature has many benefits. Just 20 minutes of sunshine provides much needed vitamin D, and fresh air can wake up the senses while having a calming effect on the nervous system. By cycling, I get to combine physical activity, community engagement, and a change of scenery, which, all together, stimulate my brain in a way that makes me feel more joyful and satisfied. This change of scenery alone helps to improve my quality of life with MS.

Lisa Emrich
Meet Our Writer
Lisa Emrich

Living with multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid Arthritis, Lisa Emrich is an award-winning, passionate patient advocate, health writer, classical musician, and backroad cyclist. Her stories inspire others to live better and stay active. Lisa is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers. Lisa frequently works with organizations in support of better policies, patient-centered research, and research funding. Lisa serves on HealthCentral’s Health Advocates Advisory Board, and is a Social Ambassador for the MSHealthCentral Facebook page.