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A comprehensive approach to addressing MS - Hospital hosts symposium for patients with MS and their caregivers

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, approximately 400,000 Americans have multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system.

While symptoms differ from person to person and can change over time, MS can result in loss of balance, compromised coordination, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, difficulty concentrating or remembering things, paralysis, blurred vision or blindness.

In order to help patients with MS learn about different types of treatments, New York Methodist Hospital hosted a symposium titled, “A Comprehensive Approach to Improving Your Well-Being: For Patients With MS and Their Caregivers.”

The event featured Alexa Degenhardt, MD, MMSc, director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at NYM, 506 Sixth Street between Seventh & Eighth avenues, along with special guest speakers who talked about various complementary treatments, including physical therapy, yoga, qigong, acupuncture, and stress reduction.

Degenhardt opened the discussion with a brief description of the disease and updates on research being conducted on its causes and treatments.

“There is a link between the brain, the body, and one’s health,” she said. “Today, we’re going to concentrate on the non-medical and supplemental therapies for MS that can positively impact one’s health.”

Holly Millheiser, assistant chief of physical therapy at NYM, talked about how physical therapy is one of the many tools that is available for the management of the disease.

She explained that physical therapists work with each patient on an individual basis in order to tailor the program to the patient’s specific needs.

“We’re deeply involved in working with you to set and reach your goals, whether they include energy conservation or neuromuscular training,” Millheiser said to the patients in the audience.

Yoga instructor Larissa Nusser-Meany said that after she was diagnosed with MS, she found that yoga was very effective at mitigating her symptoms.

“Yoga has improved my balance and decreased my leg cramps,” she said.

Qigong instructor Michael McComiskey introduced an ancient Chinese technique, consisting of slow, gentle repetitive movement that can allow MS patients to let go of stress and feel more energized.

“Qigong is the art and science of feeling well whenever you want to,” he said.

Acupuncture was another Chinese technique that was discussed during the lecture. Ming Liang Jiang, LAc, an acupuncturist who provides treatments at the Brooklyn Spine & Arthritis Center at NYM, explained that this technique can prevent pain signals from reaching the brain, which helps relieve discomfort.

Sarah Waxse, LCSW, director of HealthOutreach at NYM, ended the session with a guided stress reduction technique that patients can use.

“A variety of complementary treatments can help people with MS stay healthy, both physically and psychologically, and cope with the many difficult aspects of a chronic disease,” said Degenhardt.

“Through this event, NYM wanted to show patients and their caregivers a variety of supplemental therapies that they can add to their current medical treatments.”

The Multiple Sclerosis Center at NYM offers compassionate multidisciplinary care and is headed by Degenhardt, a neurologist who is trained in the most advanced MS treatments and clinical research.

The team care offered to patients may include a rehabilitation specialist, physical and occupational therapists, urogynecologists, urologists, psychiatrists, opthalmologists, and social services.

Treatment options include inpatient and home infusions, immunomodulatory therapies, chemotherapy, spasticity management, and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, qigong and yoga.

To learn more about services for MS patients at NYM, call 718-246-8818.

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