A few weeks back, I put out a call for questions to answer on MSMonday. I got some really good ones and one of them was about leg weakness and what we can do about it. I wanted to tackle this one first, since it seems to be another topic similar to last week’s topic where the doc’s answer is just deal with it and/or there is nothing you can do, so just deal with it. I hate that answer, obvs. It takes our power away and insinuates that we can’t do anything about our disease or disease progression.
Nothing fires me up more than getting the word out that you can do more that just wait for progression to happen to you. In fact, that is my passion and drive behind my mission at LissMS. But that’s a story for another day. Onto today’s topic: leg weakness. What can we do about leg weakness? Exercise!
But Alissa, I heard that exercise doesn’t work, since my legs are already not working right because of demyelination, it won’t do anything.
That’s is the conventional wisdom floating around the interwebz these days, for sure. I even read it last week. However, yes, we can do something about weakness, even if it is caused by demyelination.
I’m not talking about exercise in the way that we usually think about exercise, like squats and deadlifts. I think that’s where most people get freaked out in the first place. The word “exercise” is synonymous with strenuous movements. But it doesn’t’ have to be at all. The exercise I’m talking about are exercises in the form of specific movement patterns, that help our neurons bypass the damaged areas so that the signal can still communicate with our muscles and joints to get the job done. #neurology
Leg weakness with MS can happen for a few reasons. Relapses, muscle atrophy and underuse of muscles are the big ones. Usually (not always, but usually) when you’re feeling unstable and weakness in your leg muscles, something is happening in your hip. Our hips are the main drivers of motion of our legs. Whether it is demyelination leading to hip instability/weakness or underuse, hip instability can lead to leg weakness. Hips are responsible for so many things in our bodies, alignment, strength and posture to name just a few.
One of the best exercises to begin with when having leg weakness is a pelvic tilt exercise. In the video you’ll see that I have a ball between my legs, this is to help with deeper muscle and core engagement. If you don’t have a ball, you can roll up a towel or use a foam roller if you have one.
You’ll want to get down on the ground and start in a neutral position- knees bent and hips/back relaxed. To begin the exercise:
- gently tilt your pelvis toward your belly button
- engage your core (like someone is going to punch you in the gut)
- flatten your back on the ground
- squeeze the ball with your knees (this helps with muscle engagement of the core and pelvic floor muscles)
- push through your heels.
- Hold for 2-3 seconds, relsease, hold again.
- Preform 5 reps to start
5 reps may be too hard, and that’s totally ok. Start where you’re at and build up from there. This will give you a great building block for stability, strength and preventing or recovering from weakness.
If you have any questions/comments, drop them below! I’d love to hear how this goes for you!