Fatigue With MS

Does The Fatigue With MS Feel Like You Are Dragging a Ball & Chain?

The Fatigue associated with Multiple Sclerosis can be overwhelming at times and I have been dealing with this symptom for a very long time even before being diagnosed. For me it was probably the first and most consistent symptom beside the pain associated with this disease. I used to think it was because I was on the go constantly and  was just run down, then thought maybe it was related to low red blood levels, but that was within normal levels. Many times it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other often leaving me making excuses to family and friends when needing to decline an invitation out somewhere. I would always wake up exhausted as if I hadn’t really gotten a good night’s sleep and would make a point to go to bed earlier that evening, but many times that never made a difference.

Now after a dealing with this for well over a decade, it is still my most prominent symptom. Knowing what is causing it doesn’t help, which could be from the disease itself or a side effect from the medications we take.  It gives me indication that I need to do everything possible to help reduce the severity that I am experiencing. Fatigue is probably experienced by everyone who has MS in some degree or another so this is not a stranger to you if you have this disease. What we do though to help decrease the amount that we suffer with is up to us with and without medications to help. I have tried explaining this type of fatigue to others in different ways like if speaking to a female who have had children, then I compare it to first trimester pregnancy and that seems to be understood. To others I have compared it to flu like fatigue or even to the most exhausting day they have ever experienced except it is not corrected by a good night sleep. Other times I just say I feel like I have a Ball & Chain connected to both legs while trying to run a race that never ends. I’m not sure any of these analogies accurately portrays what it is really like, but unfortunately haven’t come across any other way to describe this symptom.

Learning to live with fatigue is never easy but there are some different ways to try to combat the severity of it. There are medications being used for this but often they don’t work, or at least for me and others that I have spoken with. Discussing these options with your physician should not be eliminated from your list though; it is important to tell your doctor all symptoms and the degree to which you are experiencing them at each visit. Other things you can do is to alternate taking some of your medications from morning to night if possible like muscle relaxers and anti-depressant medications. The side effects with these medications include fatigue and often if taken at night will promote better sleep. Keeping a schedule of going to bed at the same time every night and waking at the same time every morning allowing for 8 hours of sleep will also help your body maintain a sleep schedule and will promote a better night’s sleep. If you have trouble sleeping at night, reduce caffeine early in the evening and try taking a relaxing shower or bath before going to bed.

Exercise in some form every day also helps reduce fatigue as well as stress that promotes fatigue. Any form of exercise helps release endorphin’s which tells your body you feel good. Keeping a schedule of working out will help build muscle strength also reducing the amount of fatigue you experience. Eating well balanced meals full of protein, green vegetables, and fruit is important in building strong bones and muscles. Avoid foods high in fat and calories along with limiting your intake of refined sugars and bleached flour as your body doesn’t process these foods very well. Keep your body well hydrated along with taking breaks often giving your body time to rejuvenate. They don’t have to be long breaks, but even closing your eyes for 15 minutes can make your feel rested without taking a nap but if naps help you without messing up your sleep at night then that should also be used as a tool.

Set up your daily chores to where the more difficult ones are done during your “better” part of day alternating with lighter chores spreading all of these out over the week. Hiring or asking for help from family or friends should not be eliminated as a possibility to assist reducing possible falls or injuries from lack of strength, fatigue, or even concentration. If you have a day planned where your activity level will be heavy then plan ahead for that by providing time to rest ahead of that event and schedule time for rest periods during it. Be sure to allow the day following a large event to be a day of rest as well. On days that you feel great DO NOT OVER DO; I am guilty of doing this and pay heavily the next couple of days. The weather changing or extreme temperature changes affects me as does many others that I know. You can’t control the weather, but you can plan around the changes as you would for planning for a big event day by slowing down and giving yourself time to accomplish things in a longer period of time. Yes for many of us, it does take longer to do things than what it use to take, but that is alright, don’t stress about this. Learning to accept stuff like this can reduce unnecessary stress that we put on ourselves.  Don’t forget that fatigue does affect our ability to concentrate effectively so be careful when driving, operating machinery, or completing tasks where having a clear mind is necessary to avoid injury.

If you drink a lot of caffeinated or energy drinks to help with fatigue be careful. When this wares off you can feel like a you just slammed into a brick wall stopping you completely. All these suggestions are common sense stuff that I have tried and found successful over the years. The most consistent thing though is that even though there are “good” days where I rarely notice the fatigue and then the flip side of the coin, “bad” days where it is overwhelming, FATIGUE is always a part of my life with MS.


MS Blogger and Multiple Sclerosis Activist shares her journey living with MS, tips for others living MS and her husband, Steve, offers his insight as a caregiver for MS.