Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks the motor neurones in the brain and spinal cord.
This leads to weakness and wasting of muscles, causing increasing loss of mobility in the limbs, and difficulties with speech, swallowing and breathing.
However, not all symptoms necessarily happen to everyone and it is unlikely they will all develop at the same time, or in any specific order.
Although there is currently no cure for MND, symptoms can be managed to help you achieve the best possible quality of life.
There are three stages of MND: initial stage, advanced stage and the end stage which develop with different pace. With your neuro-physio you will be able to adjust the therapy to your needs and your goals.
Common symptoms and effects of MND
It is important to realise you will not experience every symptom of MND. It affects different people in different ways.
These are some of the possible symptoms:
Pain and discomfort: are not caused directly by MND, but you may get back or neck pain from your lack of mobility for example. The pain may also be associated with increased tonus in some of the muscles as well as malalignment of the joints created by increased spasticity. See your neuro physio for treatment and appropriate exercises to alleviate this.
Stiff joints: can be helped with gentle exercise. A good neuro physiotherapist will be able to determine an exercise programme appropriate for your needs.
Incontinence: is not usually associated with MND, but may occur if mobility is restricted and getting to the toilet becomes more difficult. Again work with your neuro physio to maintain your strength, mobility and function.
Bowel problems: are not usually caused directly by MND, but constipation may occur due to restricted mobility and/or changes to diet. Increasing fluid and fibre may help, and again work with your physio to maintain as much exercise as possible.
Speech, communication and swallowing issues: occur for some people living with MND. A speech and language therapist (SaLT) can help with techniques and suggestions for communication aids.
Breathing: Respiratory muscle weakness affects most people with MND. Before you experience breathing problems it is possible to strengthen the respiratory muscles with your neuro-physio. It will ease breathing and give you better quality of life. Also regular breathing exercises may postpone the need of use of medical ventilators.
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It can be greatly demotivating if diagnosed with MND. But it is important to keep positive thinking and enjoy your life as much as possible. Although it is a progressive disease with the correct therapy, it is possible to regain lost functions at least partially and slow the degenerative process down.
The most important thing is that this disease does not or very rarely affect mental abilities.
To back this up you have to know that one of the greatest minds of our times is affected by this disease. He has lived with it more than 50 years now, has three children, uncountable amount of scientific researches, papers, lectures and even experienced zero-gravity.
If it is not enough, his most appreciated theoretical works took place after he was diagnosed and even when he was paralyzed he managed to work as a scientist, write books and gives lectures.
He took part in producing several documentaries about himself and the universe. He devoted himself to work and science and he achieved everything only by positive thinking and great motivation. In latest documentary about himself, he says ‘We are all different – but we share the same human spirit. Perhaps it’s human nature that we adapt – and survive.’