What is weakness in MS?

Weakness is a common symptom in multiple sclerosis. You may feel that you do not have enough strength or energy to move some or all of your limbs, or your whole body. Weakness and fatigue are closely linked and having one often makes the other symptoms worse. Weakness in one or both legs (called monoparesis or paraparesis) can cause problems with walking and balance.  It can also increase the risk of having a fall. Weakness in the torso can make posture or bowel symptoms worse.

What causes weakness in MS?

Weakness can be a direct result of multiple sclerosis. Damage to your nerves can slow down or disrupt nerve messages, mainly within the spinal cord, making it harder to move your muscles effectively. 

Weakness can also be caused indirectly. If you are inactive and unfit, your muscles can become weaker.  An already weak muscle that is not used will become weaker. This process is called de-conditioning, and you can prevent it by staying as active as you can.

What can I do if I have weakness?

Some of the ideas used to manage fatigue will also work when treating weakness. These include prioritising activities and saving energy where possible.

For many years the advice to people with MS was to avoid exercise as it was thought this could make weakness and fatigue worse. It is now felt that exercise that works on gently building up endurance and strength in muscles is good for reducing weakness and fatigue.

A physiotherapist can help you with exercises to build up your strength.

An occupational therapist can advise you on equipment that helps you make the most of your available strength and ability.

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