A big fall is no
Falls are a major concern for people with MS. And
they can often be prevented.
by Eric Metcalf
Numbness in the feet, weak leg muscles and trouble with
balance make staying on one’s
feet a challenge. And some medications have side effects such as
dizziness that can also raise the
risk of taking a tumble.
A 2011 study published in
the Journal of Rehabilitation
Research & Development
found that women with MS
were three times more likely to
have a fall-related injury compared with women without MS
who fell. Men with MS also had
a slightly higher tendency to be
injured in a fall.
In a 2009 study in the journal Clinical Rehabilitation,
researchers followed 76 people
with MS in Sweden for three
months. Nearly two-thirds of
the participants fell during this
period. They didn’t just fall once
or twice—those 76 people fell a
combined total of 270 times.
“It is common for us to
hear from people whose lives
were changed because of a fall,”
confirmed Nancy Law, execu-
tive vice president of Programs
and Services at the National MS
Society. Falls are a serious side
effect of MS.
“There are ways to reduce the
risk,” said Marcia Finlayson,
PhD, a professor in the Depart-
ment of Occupational Therapy
at the University of Illinois at
Chicago. Here are some starting
Stay Steady with the Society’s
“Free from Falls”
The National MS Society is rolling out an eight-week fall-preven-tion program nationwide this year.
At weekly sessions, participants will learn strategies to prevent
falls and will practice strength and endurance exercises that may
improve their balance, said Nancy Law, executive vice president
of Programs and Services at the National MS Society. The program is geared toward people who walk. It does not focus on
preventing falls while transferring from a wheelchair to a bed or
vehicle. For this important aspect of fall prevention training, ask
for a referral to a qualified physical therapist.
Society chapters will work with local MS care centers to offer
this new program, which will be taught by physical or occupation-
al therapists, Law said. The program is to be tested in selected loca-
tions around the country this fall before being released nationwide.
The Society has also developed a video on fall prevention,
featuring interviews with MS experts and demonstrations of self-help strategies by people living with the disease. Visit national
MSsociety.org/mslearnonline to watch or call 1-800-344-4867
to receive the DVD.