March is Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness Month, a time dedicated to educating the public about the effects of the chronic autoimmune disease and finding solutions that improve the lives of those living with the condition, which includes over one million Americans. Quantum power wheelchairs can enhance the mobility and independence of those living with multiple sclerosis.
What Is Multiple Sclerosis?
The central nervous system (CNS) is the body’s control center, which includes the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. The CNS helps to regulate motor function, process sensory information and control behavior and thought. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease disorder that typically impacts the CNS of adults between the ages of 20 and 40, but it can affect children too. The normal transmission of nerve impulses is greatly affected, causing a wide range of negative symptoms, including:
- Blurry vision
- Cognitive problems
- Electric-shock sensations that occur with certain neck movements, especially bending the neck forward (Lhermitte sign)
- Lack of coordination
- A squeezing sensation in the torso known as MS hug (dysesthesia)
- Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs that typically occurs on one side of your body at a time
- Partial or complete loss of vision, usually in one eye at a time, often with pain during eye movement
- Problems with sexual, bowel and bladder function
- Unsteady gait or inability to walk
The Four Types of Multiple Sclerosis
For most patients, their MS will fall under one of four categories:
- Clinically isolated syndrome (CS) – This refers to the first instance of neurological symptoms within the CNS caused by inflammation and demyelination.
- Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) – The most common type of MS, this form has clearly defined attacks of new or worsening symptoms (relapses) followed by partial or total recovery (remissions)
- Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS) – A later stage case of RRMS, with this type, a patient’s symptoms may gradually worsen without obvious relapses.
- Primary progressive MS (PPMS) – The rarest and most serious case of MS, this type is defined by a gradual progression of negative symptoms with little to no relapses or remissions.
Multiple Sclerosis and Quantum Power Wheelchairs
Although the vast majority of people (66 percent) with multiple sclerosis will not develop a severe disability, for others, MS can cause paralysis that inhibits their ability to walk. For many of these patients, when their mobility goes away, so does their independence.
A Quantum power wheelchair, such as the Stretto, is designed to provide comfort, mobility and greater independence. As the narrowest, most maneuverable power base, the Stretto is a true multiple sclerosis wheelchair. With a total width of 20.47 inches with 12.5-inch drive wheels, the Stretto is the best narrow wheelchair for individuals with multiple sclerosis to use in their homes. For outside the home, the Stretto is equipped with an independent SRS (Smooth Ride Suspension). Independent SRS has increased shock absorption due to the angle of the shocks on the chair, ensuring a smoother and more comfortable ride.
Because MS can affect an individual’s ability to operate a joystick on a Stretto power wheelchair, Q-Logic 3 Advanced Drive Controls are an excellent choice for a multiple sclerosis wheelchair, as this controller system is highly expandable and customizable. As symptoms progress, Q-Logic 3 can be adapted to accept alternative drive controls, such as switched driving or a head array.
Positioning for Quantum Power Wheelchairs
An individual living with multiple sclerosis may require power positioning to assist with postural realignment, pressure relief and function. The Stretto is compatible with TRU-Balance® 4 Power Positioning Systems, which features anterior tilt and memory seating. Anterior tilt options provide a choice of 10, 20 or 30 degrees. TRU-Balance 4 also features up to eight customizable memory seating positions, as well as a dual actuator articulating foot platform that lowers to assist with transfers. TRU-Balance 4 requires the selection of iLevel power seat elevation, power anterior tilt, power posterior tilt, power recline and a power articulating foot platform.
Anterior tilt combined with iLevel on Quantum power wheelchairs provides those living with multiple sclerosis greater access to their environment. With a forward tilt of the seating system, the user may find it easier to perform ADLs, such as cooking, grooming, reaching and transferring.
Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month
MS impacts the health and well-being of millions of Americans and for some, the disease can greatly hinder their ability to live an independent life. Quantum Rehab is just one of many organizations that seek to provide support to individuals and families living with MS. If you want to get involved with or donate to the cause, there are countless nonprofits and medical organizations making a difference, including:
This month, let’s work together to support people with MS and raise awareness of the importance of developing enhanced complex rehab solutions, treatments and cures.
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