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How MS can affect balance

Your brain processes information gathered via your vision and other senses – but MS can disrupt the flow of information to and from your brain. Problems with balance and coordination (ataxia) are common in MS and you might experience this as unsteadiness, dizziness, tremor or shaking.

This loss of stability can cause you to feel unsteady, lose coordination or stumble. A loss of balance can happen unexpectedly – for example, you could be walking outside and lose your balance and sense of direction.

If you’re experiencing this symptom, whatever you’re feeling is valid. Many people with MS can feel distressed, frustrated or experience a lack of confidence as their balance is impacted, so we’ve detailed some ways you can work on your balance and avoid falls below.

How to improve your balance

If you’ve been experiencing this symptom, your GP can help you either rule out what’s causing it or make changes to improve your balance. They may refer you to a physiotherapist or occupational therapist specialising in neurological conditions to help you improve your balance and coordination and find easier ways of achieving everyday tasks.

Finding Balance: Navigating Stability with Multiple Sclerosis

Physical balance is crucial because it helps us move confidently, perform daily activities safely, and prevents falls and injuries. Balance is often affected in people with MS due to damage to the nerves that control movement and sensation. In this recently recorded webinar, MS physiotherapist Mahenddra Raj and MS Nurse, Jodi Haartsen provide an overview of understanding balance in MS, how balance is assessed for people with MS, strategies for improving balance and the psychological and emotional impact that balance difficulties can have for people.

Staying safe and avoiding falls

If you’re experiencing a lack of balance, there are some steps you can take in and outside the home to stay safe and avoid falls.

What to do if you fall

If you fall, it’s natural to feel shaken or shocked. Try your best to stay calm and not make any sudden movements.

If you aren’t hurt and feel able to get up, you can:

  1. take your time, moving slowly and steadily
  2. roll onto your hands and knees and look for something stable to support you, such as a bed or a chair
  3. hold onto the furniture and slowly get up
  4. sit down and take a moment to recover.

If you feel hurt or unable to get up:

  1. try to get someone’s attention. You can use your personal alarm or mobile phone if you have one, or shout out and make a noise
  2. get as comfortable and warm as you can while you wait for help
  3. unless you suspect a bone fracture, change your position every half hour or so to stay comfortable and avoid pressure sores.

This page has been reviewed and approved by Executive Manager Client Engagement and Wellbeing Jodi Haartsen. Jodi is a registered MS Nurse who has helped thousands of patients over her 20 years’ experience at Eastern Health MS service in Australia, in several roles including nurse educator, research nurse and nurse practitioner. Jodi is the 2022 winner of the global MS Brain Health Leader Award in the Independent Healthcare Professionals category.

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