Muscle stiffness and balance issues are likely not new to you if you’ve lived with MS for a while. If you’re newly diagnosed, these concerns—unfortunately—soon will be all too familiar. But it takes just a few minutes of stretching to begin to ease stiffness that’s commonly associated with MS, and balance exercises can help you regain some of your stability.
Stretch Away Stiffness from MS
Try doing the following moves in the morning when muscles are at their tightest or before or after exercise. Doing these once or twice a day is optimal and will help increase your mobility.
Calf Stretch: Stand and place your hands flat against a wall at shoulder level. Place your right foot (toes forward) against the wall; move your left foot back so the toes of that foot are about 12 inches behind your right heel. Keep your back aligned and your left leg straight; bend your right knee and gently lean toward wall until you feel a stretch in the left calf. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds; switch sides and repeat.
Front of Chest Stretch: Face a corner of a room. Stand with your feet a few inches away from the two adjacent walls. Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle; place one forearm against each wall. Keep your shoulders relaxed and lean forward slightly until you feel a mild stretch in your chest. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds; relax.
Hamstring Stretch: Stand and cross your right foot in front of your left. Bend at the waist and slowly lower your forehead toward your right knee while keeping both knees straight. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds; switch sides and perform the stretch again.
Hip Flexor Stretch: Start by lying on your belly, with your body flat on the floor. Then, prop your torso up on your forearms and elbows. Keep your head in line with your neck. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
Easy Balance Exercises for MS
Performing these four moves regularly (try to do all in the set at least three times a week) can help you build and maintain your balance and reduce your risk of falls.
The Blind One-Legged Stand: Stand on one leg facing the walls in the corner of a room (you can touch the walls if you need to). Close your eyes; hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
Heel and Toe Raises: Stand and lift your heels a few inches off the floor; slowly come back down. Do this 10 times. Next, while standing, place your body weight on your heels and lift your toes in the air before returning them to the floor. Do this 10 times.
Partial Squats: Stand alongside a chair (hold onto the back of the chair if you need to) and do a series of 10 squats.
The Postural Control Challenge: Stand with both feet on a piece of foam, which provides an unstable surface. (You can find one at your local sporting goods store.) Keep your back straight and you're your head held high for 20 to 30 seconds.
From our sister publication, REMEDYMD: Multiple Sclerosis 2011