Putting a Rest to MS Myths

We debunk five of the most common MS myths.

Content provided by: Black Health Matters

Medical discoveries happen so fast that it’s easy to understand how some people don’t have time to stay on top of the latest news and might still believe outdated myths and misconceptions about multiple sclerosis. We debunk five of the most common MS myths.

Myth 1: People with multiple sclerosis shouldn’t exercise.

There was a time when everyone—experts and people with MS alike—believed physical activity would make the disease worse. Doctors advised against an active lifestyle and families kept their loved ones sheltered indoors. Now we know better. In fact, research shows it’s actually better for you to keep it moving. Being active may even ease some symptoms of MS and help you stay mobile longer than if you’re largely sedentary. Choose activities you enjoy and do them most days of the week.

Myth 2: Women with MS can’t (or shouldn’t) get pregnant.

Three times more women develop MS than men, most often during their childbearing years. Imagine how unfair it would be to say to these women that they should pack up their ovaries and go home. Experts say women with multiple sclerosis can get pregnant and might even find some of their MS symptoms disappear during pregnancy. Singer Tamia says this is what she experienced while she was pregnant. If you want to have a baby, but you’ve been diagnosed with MS, know this: There is no research that links a mom’s MS with a negative outcome for the baby. Just talk with your doctor about your medications and the possibility of a relapse within three months after childbirth.

Myth 3: Multiple sclerosis is contagious.

Some people are under the misconception that MS is catching, like that stomach virus that laid your entire family low last Thanksgiving. But scientists have tried—and failed—to transmit the disease in the lab to research animals, so the likelihood of it spreading in your home or community is pretty remote.

Myth 4: Multiple sclerosis doesn’t cause pain.

Though there are still some health-care providers who don’t include pain on the list of MS symptoms, people who have it will tell you different. And if you need the science to back up the folks who should know, here it is: Research published a year ago in the Journal of Neurology found that people with multiple sclerosis can suffer with long-term chronic pain.

Myth 5: Multiple sclerosis always causes permanent disability.

It’s difficult to predict the degree of disability MS will cause for any one person. Today’s medications slow disease progression for many sufferers. Add a variety of mobility aids and physical therapy to your arsenal, and the words “permanent disability” might have to be banned from your vocabulary. You may learn what many others with this disease know: Sometimes you’ll might need your walker or cane, and some days you can dance circles around your non-MS friends.

Content provided by: Black Health Matters

Up In Smoke

Smoking medical marijuana relieves MS symptoms.

My husband and I recently saw a headline in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that read, “Smoking medical marijuana could help relieve some symptoms of multiple sclerosis”. I instantly began dreaming of buying a new house in California next to Montel’s medical marijuana dispensary.

The study found that people with M.S. who smoked cannabis have experienced decreased pain and spasticity. While, thank God, I don’t suffer from any pain, I do endure unbelievable spasticity and clonus in my legs. Sometimes they are stiff like planks of wood. While other times they shake uncontrollably. I currently treat this with muscle relaxers, so I began thinking, “Weed effects can’t be any worse on my body than prescription pills? Lets do this!”

Then reality (i.e. my husband) spoke up as he continued reading and revealed some bad news. People who smoked the study’s cannabis had decreased cognitive functioning and scored low on tests that measured their focus. This result was supported by an earlier study in the journal, Neurology, which also showed Multiple Sclerosis patients who smoked medical marijuana have a doubled risk of developing cognitive impairments. While I would love to improve my spasticity, I can’t afford for my cognition to get any worse. Some of my main issues have been with my inability to track conversations, general confusion and memory.

I suppose I should be happy because this may pave the way for continued studies. Hopefully they will examine whether different doses can result in similar beneficial effects with decreased impact to cognition.

But for now my cannabis cure-all dreams have gone up in smoke.