Heavy Legs & Multiple Sclerosis
Why do my legs feel weak and heavy?
Feeling weakness in one or both of your legs is called monoparesis or paraparesis and can be a direct result of MS. You can also feel weakness in your arms and other areas of your body, but to feel it in your legs often occurs more frequently.
The weakness can make your legs feel heavy, as if they are being weighed down by something. They may also ache and hurt. Some people with MS describe it as like having bags of sand attached to their legs.
This muscle weakness combined with MS fatigue can be upsetting. Weakness in your legs can cause balance and walking difficulties and you may be more likely to fall. You may find that your legs can tire quickly making you feel a lack of physical strength, while fatigue brings on an intense exhaustion and lack of energy. Due to your legs feeling weak you need that extra energy to keep moving! It’s a vicious cycle as muscle weakness and MS fatigue are closely linked and one can make the other worse.
What causes weakness in MS?
The muscle weakness that you are feeling can be directly linked to MS because the damage to your nerves can disrupt signals to the muscles. This nerve damage makes it hard to move your muscles and leads to a heavy feeling in your legs (or other areas of your body). MS spasticity can cause any muscle in your body to feel weak, heavy and difficult to move. It is a result of damage along the nerves of the brain and spinal cord controlling movement.
You may feel that as a result of MS you aren’t exercising regularly. This inactivity can lead to your muscles naturally becoming weaker which is known as deconditioning. This is why it is vital to keep up some form of gentle exercise at all times as part of the Overcoming MS program.
What can I do if I have weakness?
Fortunately, there are many ways to help you manage MS muscle weakness and heavy legs.
Prevent deconditioning using exercise
Exercising as part of the Overcoming MS program will help you to gently build up muscle strength and endurance which will improve any fatigue and weakness. Regular exercise will also ensure that you prevent any deconditioning and muscle wastage.
Strength exercises such as squats, lunges and leg lifts will all help you to strengthen your legs if you have been feeling heaviness. Hold onto something as you are doing these exercises at first and you will gradually build up the strength and balance.
An MS diet
Combine the exercise with a nutritious and healthy diet plan so that you will not gain extra weight which adds strain to your legs muscles. Follow an MS diet which includes vitamin D and flaxseed supplements and is low in saturated fat, all of which can help manage your MS symptoms.
Use a physiotherapist and occupational therapist
A physiotherapist will be able to show you suitable exercises to do, focusing on problem areas, while an occupational therapist can help you to make the most of your strength and ability by advising you on equipment to use.
Although it is important to stay active, you need to combine this with rest. Try to plan your days to factor in periods of rest as you need to. If you are out for a walk, take regular stops, getting to know local places where you can sit down to take a break. Also make use of walking aids such as a cane, as they will make you feel more stable and can take the weight off your legs. Taking time out of your day to meditate will also help you to relax and reduce any stress that you may feel.
What are the next steps?
If it seems like there is too much information and you don’t know where to start, read through our next steps after diagnosis – we can help you. You can also check out our New to MS & Overcoming MS page, which has four simple ways to help you get started on making healthier lifestyle choices.
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