Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Stress and MS

I have been reading some new material by the Rocky Mountain MS Center that we received when we went to visit them. One of the books is a collaboration of multiple doctors that is supposed to be a field guide to Multiple Sclerosis. The first of the book went through the usual explanation of what MS supposedly is and how it affects the body, then they go into different treatments and theories behind what you can do about MS. As I was reading through it, one paragraph really caught my eye. The authors were talking about how stress affects MS and if you could bring on an attack by too much work, stress, exercise etc. Their conclusion was that even though many MS patients and their "supporters" believe that these things directly affect their MS, the doctors didn't believe that MS could be aggravated by those things.

I almost put the book down! For the last 12 years I have watched as stress, exercise, work, child rearing, etc. has caused numbness, fatigue, visual issues, tingling, bladder issues and a host of other symptoms. How do I know that these things caused the attack? I watched every step of the way, and at this point in our marriage, I can tell you the progression of how it affects her. For instance, a few years ago she began to exercise regularly so that she could run a marathon. A few months went by without any problem and things seemed to be going well. One day she woke up with numbness in her side and her body began a downhill slide for well over a month. I have story after story of her having an attack because of physical and emotional stresses.

Dr. Swank used to tell us that we had to make sure my wife rested everyday and would recommend laying down for at least an hour a day. I have watched as family stress has brought on physical pain in my wife. My wife is very emotional and when she gets upset, it can cause her to physically hurt and to sob uncontrollably. Movies can make her tense and make her body tighten up and hurt. To this day, she will do other things while we are watching a movie so that she doesn't get too involved in the action or suspense. I have watched her have muscle spasms and leg pain from walking too much or from stressing out at Christmas time in the mall. I have felt the knots and tightness in her neck and shoulders after a stressful day that will often lead to numbness or tingling in her arms and hands. I have watched her loose her eyesight after a stressful activity like rock climbing.

I am not sure where these doctors came up with this theory, but apparently none of them have MS or have someone with MS in their immediate family. It is so hard to watch the newly diagnosed MS patient walk into a neurologist office to be told these types of things. Do we have all of the answers? No. But, we have figured out how to keep my wife functioning at a very high level and living a good life. She just walked into our office a minute ago, and she looks great! She had some numbness earlier this week, but we were able to make it go away with chiropractic and rest. Today, she is working on her new desk she bought, just enjoying the challenges of owning her own business. I guess I wonder where we would be if we listened to all of the "MS specialists", Neurologists, MD's and other doctors that wanted her on the MS drugs and steroids. I feel like I know what our lives would be like. We would be stressed out about how to pay for the drugs, my wife would be messed up from the side effects of the drugs, and she would probably be in a wheelchair by now. That seems to be the course we have seen from others around us that have taken that route. Not all of them have turned out that way, but a majority have. I am just not convinced that in a majority of these cases, they could have dieted better, taken supplements, done other alternative care and had a better life without all of the side effects caused by the MS drugs.

Her mom took that route and has been in a wheelchair most of her life. She is completely crippled up at this point, barely able to function. Yeah, MS won't kill you, but it will take your life away. I wish we could help her, but she is adamant about doing things the MS doctor way, so we have to sit and watch as she gets worse each year. To anyone out there that has MS, I would say educate yourself. Listen to your body and make informed decisions based on your bodies needs, not on what the drug companies tell you. Make sure you don't discount the affects a good diet and supplement program can have, and never ever discount the affects alternative health care can have. We have been blessed in our lives to find good doctors that are more interested in helping figure out what is causing the problem than giving a drug to help with a symptom. Can stress cause MS attacks? In our experience, I would have to say YES!


clucero said...

My husband has MS. I have found that in the last couple of weeks he hasn'e been feeling well with more "High Intensity" days, as he calls it than before. I finally got the background on what's been going on at work the last couple of weeks and the stress it is causing him. Mood swings at home, getting angry easily and being impatient. Yes, I do agree with you that stress makes the MS worse.

Your blog is great. I'm glad there is someone out there looking at MS from the other side like I am and trying their best to understand and help with it the best they can.

Anonymous said...

I was just newly diagnosed a month ago with MS after several MRI's & a lumbar puncture. I had shown symptoms for approx. 13 years prior. I cannot tell you in words just how comforting your blog has been to both me & my husband. To know that I'm not crazy & there are others who seem to show symptoms that are not necessarily listed in all of the medical journals. U thank my lucky stars every day that I, like your wife, have an amazing, understanding, uplifting, supportive husband. After reading so many negative experiences, your blog is truly our little ray of sunshine. We laughed & cried as we read every post. Thank you & your wife so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to have stubbled on your blog. Im in the beginning stages of MS and struggle very day with this news. Thank you for sharing, you just made my concerns today a little easier knowing I'm not alone.

Shimael Vann said...

I thank you for posting this! I was diagnosed with MS in 2006. I took the MS meds like Rebif & Copaxone, which only made me feel worse! I only take a muscle relaxer to help with spasms from time to time. I don't want to become dependant on any type of drug! Those MS drugs are almost toxic to your body! My doctor is, or at least seems to be, more concerned with pumping me full of meds than figuring out what and where the problem is coming from. I have been in college part time for the last two years. Each semester gets more difficult to complete. I was told by my neurologist that it wasn't my MS being affected by stress because I showed no new lesions on my MRI. My family Dr found that to be absurd! He told me that although no new lesions are showing, that the damage already done to my brain can and will contribute to my symptoms. I am seriously considering just forgetting about college. Is the stress worth my health? I have a Very supportive husband and 12 year old son. They clean & cook too! I have never been a quitter, but my health is deteriorating with each semester. Although I have been told otherwise by a neurologist, Stress is a major factor in how my MS acts. This blog let's me know that I am not alone! Time for me to find a new neurologists! God Bless you All!

Cory D said...

Hey Shimael Vann, thanks for the comment. My wife knows full well the struggles with finding a good Neurologist and we hope you have better luck than us. We haven't seen a Neurologist in years, and recently found a new Naturopathic Doctor that has been wonderful. Can't say enough about finding a great Natural Doctor. I know for my wife's MS the best things have come thru the Natural route, and it's still an ongoing process to keep her healthy. I hope you find someone soon that will be able to help you more and treat the core issues instead of the symptoms. Please let us know if you have any specific questions.