Leading lights: physiotherapy's unique contribution to managing MS

Physio Imogen Scott Plummer says physio staff can take a leadership role in the MS field.

The MS Society has found that 81 per cent of people with MS had been misdiagnosed by their GP before being diagnosed with the condition, leaving them unable to begin to manage their symptoms. 
The survey of more than 1,500 people with MS also found that about one in four (28 per cent) were told they had a trapped nerve, while about one in 10 said they had been misdiagnosed with depression or anxiety or stress (14 per cent), or told they had suffered a stroke (11 per cent). One in five (20 per cent) had to wait from one to three years for a diagnosis following the first visit to their GP with early MS symptoms. 
While the condition can be difficult to diagnose, delays such as these are harmful. They prevent people from taking the necessary steps to manage their condition effectively. This might mean beginning a disease-modifying treatment or starting to manage their symptoms. 
Once someone has been accurately diagnosed they can begin to make decisions with their MS specialist about which treatments are right for them.
Symptoms vary greatly so everyone’s treatment plans should reflect this. It is crucial that people with MS are equal partners in making decisions. We know that physiotherapy can be very effective in managing the condition. 
Physiotherapists provide a unique contribution to the management of MS and have a leadership role in areas such as spasticity management as independent prescribers. The greatest potential for central nervous system adaptation and recovery occurs in the early stages of the disease. 
Physiotherapy intervention and advice early after diagnosis can reduce disability, maximise potential for independence and reduce the impact that the condition has on quality of life factors. The proven efficacy of many of the interventions that physiotherapists deliver is why research into physiotherapy and mobility remain in the MS Society’s top research priorities. 
  • Imogen Scott Plummer is head of care and services research at the MS Society. 

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Imogen Scott Plummer

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