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Saturday, April 7, 2012

MS.. weather changes hurt!

The changes in temperature and barometric pressure have been doing a number on how my body feels lately.  It seems almost silly to have issues this spring when the weather has been absolutely amazing!  Most winters bring my region temperatures well below the freezing point for weeks on end, with cold weather lasting well into spring most years.  This year, 2012, has been phenomenal.. yet having springlike temperatures with an occasion colder day or two in between has wreaked havoc on my body and for those who suffer from a variety of ailments.  With severe drops or rises in temperatures or weather patterns come changes in the barometer, which I learned a few years ago is what triggers the severe pain I feel in most of my body, particularly spasms and/or spasticity.  Spasticity is a word that is difficult for me to explain or even to find a decent definition for, but I'll do the best I can since it affects many of us with multiple sclerosis.

I went on Google to find the best description of spasticity and was rather amazed at what I read.  My memory is not the best so I guess I already knew what it meant but was in dire need of a refresher course in understanding something I live through every day of my life!  OK, so here is what it means and why it makes me laugh.  I owe my "kick-ass" calves to spasticity.  Hey, it had so be good for something, right?  I got all this information from About.com, if anyone would like to go there for more info.

Spasticity is best understood as an increase in muscle tone.  While this may sound good to some of us who bemoan the flabbier parts of our bodies, what it really means is that the muscles do not relax as much or as easily as they should.  Because of this, spasticity affects movement (and is therefore considered a motor symptom, as opposed to a sensory symptom).

Spasticity tends to occur more often in the legs than in the arms.  It also tends to be asymmetrical, meaning it is worse or happens more often on one side of the body than the other.  There are several types of spasms that affect people with MS:

  • Extensor Spasms:  these happen when a limb, usually a leg, stiffens and the person is unable to bend the joint.  These cause the limb, usually a leg, to jerk away from the body.  It usually affects the quadriceps (the large muscles on the front thigh), causing the lower leg to straighten.
  • Flexor Spasms:  this type of spasm causes a limb to contract, or bend, toward the body.  This type of spasm almost always affects the legs, especially the hip flexors.
  • Clonus:  this is when muscles jerk or twitch repeatedly.  The most common forms of clonus is when a person's foot taps rapidly and repetitively on the floor or knee or ankle jerk repeatedly after stimulation (such as tapping at the joint), rather than the normal response of one tap or jerk.
  • Adductor Spasms:  these are more rare.  These spasms cause a person's legs to close together tightly, making it difficult to separate them.
  • Stiffness:  this can be thought of as mild spasticity.  While not as dramatic as some of the forms of spasms described above, when muscles are slow to relax, it can cause problems walking or using the hands and fingers to perform delicate movements.  In some cases, the stiffness may not pose a huge problem.  In other cases, the spasticity can cause problems with mobility or be painful enough to interfere with daily life.

Of the above types of spasms, I'm most plagued with clonus, stiffness, extensor and flexor spasms.  Geez, that almost covers all of them!  MS spasms are horribly uncomfortable and can be rather embarrassing, but I've found that the flexor spasms in my hips (and pelvis) are the most excruciating and require extra doses of Baclofen when I feel the spasms getting out of control, as is the case today.  It's no picnic when they are attacking my lower back either.  UGH!

Some days, I ask myself why I write in my blog and why I'm terribly disappointed in myself if I don't have enough energy to sit and write.  The answer is really quite simple.  I feel as if I'm finally doing something meaningful, helpful even, with my life since my MS diagnosis over 20 years ago.  I always meant to do something inspiring with my life but never knew how to go about doing it.  I'm sure there are better ways to give words of encouragement but I've found a method to reach people from around the world by writing my thoughts and feelings and personal experiences in a simple blog, hoping that I am able to help even one person on this roller coaster ride of life with MS.  Have I succeeded?  Yes, I believe I have to some extent.  If nothing else, I know I have reached a few people who are not afflicted with MS but are close friends of mine and can now understand a bit more of what my life has become.  Maybe others with loved ones with MS are reading my posts and learning to be kinder and more considerate, too.  I'm not sure, but that would be wonderful!  MS doesn't change who we are in our core.  It just alters how we need to view the world a bit since nothing is as easy as it once was.  I can no longer take anything for granted anymore as I may not be able to have enough energy to make a simple cup of coffee from one day to the next.  It's just a fact of life for me and I realize no one's life is guaranteed to be perfect every day, but it's a bit more obvious to a person who has a disability whether it be MS, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia or countless others.

Oh, I sure hope tomorrow will be a bit more pain-free than today has turned out.  As any of my friends know by now, I do not like taking too many pain pills and I'm near maxing out on my Baclofen for the day already.  But since I normally take less than half my recommended dosage, I won't let it bother me if I need to take a bit more than usual tonight.

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