Walking With MS May be a Challenge

Multiple sclerosis patients report difficulty walking

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It's common for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) to have trouble walking or maintaining balance. For most MS sufferers, this is the most difficult aspect of living with the disease.

For people with disabilities, walking isn't just a way to get from place to place. It's a sign of independence and freedom. That may be why only 40 percent of multiple sclerosis patients rarely or never report their walking problems with their doctor.

"Talk to your doctor about balance issues."

Muscle weakness, spasticity, sensory deficit, and fatigue are among the reasons why MS patients have trouble with their gait. Most of these problems can be helped with physical therapy, assistive devices, and in some cases, medications.

It's important for people to speak with their doctor about their specific issues, in order to get the most appropriate treatment.

The statistics come from a survey of over 1200 adults with MS, supported by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and Acorda Therapeutics. Among the findings:

  • Two-thirds, or 65 percent of those with MS report trouble walking or difficulty maintaining balance at least twice per week.
  • A majority of people with MS experience walking problems within a few years of diagnosis.
  • Younger people with MS are less likely to start the conversation about walking problems with their doctor.
  • 78 percent of women and 62 percent of men surveyed report that walking makes getting around dangerous.
  • 60 percent of people with walking difficulties have fallen, and 34 percent say the fall resulted in injury.
  • Typically, people who reported a fall have fallen three times in the prior six months.
  • Of people who have trouble walking and are employed, 21 percent said they had to switch careers because of their walking problems.

According to scientists involved with the survey, the results show that people with even mild to moderate symptoms experience physical, financial, and emotional challenges caused by difficulty walking. They hope the findings will motivate younger patients to discuss their mobility issues with their physician.

The survey was conducted in June 2011, and the results were announced in October 2011. The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive, and funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and Acorda Theraputics.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 26, 2011
Last Updated:
October 28, 2011