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S4E61 10 mins with George: Defining ‘overcoming’ MS and ‘recovery’

S4E61: 10 mins with George – Defining ‘overcoming’ MS and ‘recovery’

Welcome to Living Well with MS. We are pleased to welcome Professor George Jelinek as part of a short series, ’10 minutes with George’. These special episodes with the creator of the Overcoming MS Program mark the 10th anniversary of our charity, Overcoming MS.

In this fourth episode, George explains how he uses and defines “overcoming” MS and “recovery”. You can also watch it here

Make sure you sign up to our newsletter to hear our latest tips and news about living a full and happy life with MS. And if you’re new to Overcoming MS, visit our introductory page to find out more about how we support people with MS.

This is the fourth instalment of a five-part series. Listen to parts onetwo and three. Keep reading for the key episode takeaways and Professor Jelinek’s bio.


Professor George Jelinek developed the Overcoming MS Program and founded the Neuroepidemiology Unit at the University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health which continues to research its benefits.

George’s Story

When George was diagnosed with MS in 1999, he was determined to do something. His mother had died as a consequence of her MS, which spurred him on to sort through the medical literature on MS. His career as a Professor in Emergency Medicine and his background as Editor-in-Chief of a major medical journal gave him the tools to do this.

It became clear to George that remaining well after a diagnosis of MS is more than just a possibility. He found that with commitment to the right lifestyle changes, there is the real probability that many people with MS can live long, healthy lives, relatively free of the usual problems associated with the illness. These lifestyle recommendations are now referred to as the Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis (OMS) Program, which he detailed in his book Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis.

George has remained free of further relapses, as have many people who follow the OMS Program.

Selected Key Takeaways

“Overcoming MS” can mean stabilizing rather than deteriorating

(4:06) “My own health started to more than stabilize. And that was a surprise to me. In that I started to not only not deteriorate, but I started to feel better than I did before.”

For us as a charity, “Overcoming MS” means living a full and happy life after a diagnosis. Although there is currently no cure, depending on your starting point, the Overcoming MS program may lead to improvements in your physical and mental health, reducing the impact of your MS symptoms, slowing or preventing its progression. Some people recover function and, most importantly, you can lead a full and happy life with MS.

For George, “recovering from MS” is an ongoing process rather than an outcome

(7:10) “I’d say I’m recovering from MS. [But] it’s a process, not an outcome. In my view, we’re not looking for a final destination. In life, the only final destination is death. I’m not trying to get somewhere, it’s the process of how I’m living every day that constitutes recovering from MS.”

For us as a charity, we look at a range of uses of the word recovery: recovering lost function, recovering mental strength and recovering quality of life. These different outcomes are possible depending on your starting point and personal situation. 

The Overcoming MS program manages symptoms, it’s not a cure

(9:00) “A cure has never been part of this. It would be ridiculous to say that living a really healthy life like this cures MS. Because I know if I was to return to my former bad habits, that there’d be every chance that I’d get a flare up of some sort.”

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