Fatigue is a common symptom in Multiple Sclerosis patients, affecting around 80 percent of the patient population. There are three main types of MS Fatigue, ranging from basic tiredness and the feeling of needing sleep, to cognitive fatigue, which can affect thinking, to physical fatigue, which can manifest as a tiredness of the muscles.
“One way our team at DENT tries to combat fatigue is by recommending daily routine changes that may have a big impact,” said Katelyn McCormack, a Family Nurse Practitioner in the DENT Multiple Sclerosis Center.
Lifestyle modifications can have a huge and positive impact on your Multiple Sclerosis fatigue. All the methods discussed can be used in helping to manage MS fatigue symptoms.
Physical or Occupational Therapy:
Different devices can be prescribed by your physician to help manage your physical fatigue by reducing the amount of energy it takes to complete certain tasks.
“Some patients may have weakness on one side, or trouble gripping, and we can prescribe different devices to help limit how much energy a task takes you,” said McCormack.
These methods can help to reduce the feeling of muscle tiredness that accompany physical fatigue.
Good Sleep Hygiene:
It’s very important to practice good sleep hygiene, which includes maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, for example going to bed and waking up at around the same time every day.
“Sleep improvement is a major way to combat fatigue,” said McCormack. “And it may not be that you’re not getting enough sleep, but that you’re not sleeping well. We use sleep studies to find the problem, or trying meditation to aid with sleep improvement. There are also vitamins available that can promote quality sleep.”
Sleep improvement can be achieved by minimizing poor sleep habits like staying up late and not keeping a consistent routine. It is also important to minimize artificial blue light exposure from electronic devices. Sleep is vastly underrated, and if quality of sleep isn’t there it can have serious negative ramifications and lead to worsening fatigue.
Exercise not only promotes healthy sleep hygiene, it also can also have a huge impact on managing your fatigue symptoms. There are many types of exercise you can try to find what works best for you. Alternative types of exercise include swimming, yoga, and water aerobics, all of which are great ways to get active.
“Stretching is a large component of managing fatigue. We advocate stretching in the morning and at night. Stretching can play a large role in relaxing your muscles and preparing your muscles for sleep and it plays a large role in minimizing spasms.” said Dr. Mazhari.
Another notable factor in managing fatigue is being aware of the role heat can play. Exposure to heat from either exercise of environmental factors can exacerbate fatigue symptoms. In order to reduce your exposure to heat your physician can prescribe cooling products, like cooling vests or scarves to aid in the cool down process. In addition, it is important to consider timing. For example it may be beneficial to take walks in the morning during the summer, rather than in the middle of the day when it is warmest out.
“Data shows optimizing vitamins are so important.” said Dr. Mazhari. Vitamin D is often lacking in this area, so adding that to your vitamin regimen can have a large impact. Other vitamins like B12 and Biotin have been shown to make improvements as well.
Depression can be a big part of MS. Some patients will notice that when their mood changes it can impact stamina, and what you feel like doing. Depression can be a hard topic to bring up, due in part to the stigma surrounding it, but it could be why you’re having fatigue. So don’t be afraid to mention those symptoms to your physicians.
Over caffeinating can also be a contributing factor to an increase in fatigue. A cup of coffee in the morning is okay, but caffeine all day long can create issues. Our doctors recommend two cups of water of every cup of coffee.
Side Effects of Medicine:
Sometimes certain side effects of medicine can play a role in increasing your fatigue. However fixing this can be as simple as changing the time you take your medicine. It can also help to evaluate the current medicines you are taking to ensure that your medication is benefiting you and working cohesively to make you feel better.
As a reminder, before implementing any of these methods discuss them with your treating physician.