The pulling power of MS

2 December 2019

The pulling power of MS, by Martin Baum

People with MS report such a wide range of symptoms that it's unlikely that any two people will have the same experience. In his latest blog, Martin Baum talks about a lesser known symptom that he experiences, where it feels like he is being forcefully pulled backwards.

It’s quite a peculiar thing to have a condition that, from a standing position, can forcefully pull a fourteen stone body backwards with all the power of a neodymium magnet.  As bizarre as it sounds, I, like many people with MS who suffer the limitations and difficulties of fatigue, vision, speech, bladder and all that goes with having multiple sclerosis, this one symptom is as disconcerting and as distressing as it gets.

When it happens, my entire body feels like an accelerating driverless vehicle with the brakes off rolling downhill.  Starting slow, without any attributing factors like dizziness or nausea, my body picks up speed with a stubborn physical strength that defies anyone from being able to step in to stop me in my tracks until the very last moment.  While there is no specific data to calculate how many other people with MS have to deal with this ‘falling backwards’ symptom there is, nevertheless, support online from other people caught by this rogue condition.  Some have thought it could be something called postural hypotension (PH), a condition where blood pressure drops abnormally whenever standing up after sitting or lying down.  Another school of thought was progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP).  This affects balance and yet what both suggestions have in common is that neither addresses my specific problem of forcibly being pulled backwards against my will.   

Incidents like this are quite common for me wherever I happen to be.  It really is quite indiscriminate.  For example, when I was recently at the Houses of Parliament for an MS-related event suddenly, in mid conversation, in the presence of MP Stephen Lloyd who was sponsoring the event, I found myself falling backwards.  But at least on that occasion I wasn’t alone.  I was among my own.  I was in the company of maybe fifty or sixty people with MS.  Although not everyone in the room was aware of this particular symptom my reaction, as is usual, was to take it in my stride because these things just happen. 

In my experience when I inadvertently become the centre of attention it doesn’t mean I have to behave as such.  It never helps.  If I don’t react it doesn’t mean that people won’t believe I’ve got multiple sclerosis, it just takes the sting out of the MS tail which makes multiple sclerosis easier for me to cope with.  If I don’t react in a negative way, then neither will others which makes for a better relationship with not only MS but also – and this is from the heart - with people who want to help me from falling which is something I appreciate more than they could ever possibly know.