This presentation was part of the Chicago Wellness for MS Forum held Saturday April 22, 2023

Watch the full presentation: What Now? Post Rehab and Healthy Lifestyle

Joy had her first MS symptoms 40 years ago and was finally diagnosed at age 41. Her brother was diagnoses with multiple sclerosis when he was just 29 years old. When Joy went back to work after her diagnosis she decided to work with people with MS. She took the rehab program that she had built for herself, Fit MS, and shared it with her patients.

There is a rapid increase in autoimmunity that’s environmentally based as genes don’t change this quickly. Autoimmune disease are the third most common chronic disease category in the Unites States after cardiovascular disease and cancer. MS is in the top 10 most common out of more than 80 autoimmune diseases. We need to band together and know that people with MS will benefit from research on any autoimmune condition. Many MS drugs were first developed for other autoimmune conditions.

Modifiable environmental factors that exacerbate MS

  • Low adherence to treatment
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Low levels of vitamin A and D
  • High intake of salt
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Lifestyle factors include healthy diet, exercise, not smoking, taking your medication and other things you can do to live well with multiple sclerosis. Daily activities often take longer for people with MS and can cause fatigue (the most common symptom in MS.)

Find a doctor you trust and tell them everything. The NeuroBalace Center is uniquely accessible and teaches adaptive golf, boxing, pilates and horseback riding with access to occupational therapists, physical therapists, nurses and other health care practitioners.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA guidelines were last updated in 1990 and have the goal to have access with assistance but that’s not good enough Disabled people need accessibility independently. Accessibility includes flat thresholds, accessible toilets, and accessible parking. It is unfortunately up to disabled people to advocate for what they need starting with their friends and family.

Exercise is crucial for people with MS

Activity means not sitting on your couch. Walking in your house, doing laundry, gardening in raised beds that are accessible to chair users and other things all count as activity. All terrain vehicles help disabled people “hike” and spend time in nature.

Exercise doesn’t have to be done all at want. Start your day with bed yoga for five to seven minutes. Exercise helps with functional movement to help with day to day activities. Don’t do the same exercise routine every day. Mix it up with walking, biking (including adaptive bikes or stationary bikes), yoga, and other types of exercise. Exercise retrains the brain and helps people with MS increase their strength. Do enough to make a difference but not so much that you’re wiped out and on the couch for the rest of the day.

Joy Wagner, RN, BSN is the Founder, fitMS® NeuroBalance Center. She received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from the University of Iowa. She has practiced nursing and taught in the health field since 1982 changing her focus to Multiple Sclerosis, Auto-Immune and other Neuromuscular conditions after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2001. Determined to regain her independence, Joy developed a rehabilitation protocol for herself. She named this program fitMS® in 2003 when she began teaching other MS patients at local fitness facilities. She released a standing and seated version of fitMS® on DVD in 2004 to make the program available to MS patients outside her community. Joy received the National MS Society’s “Leader of Hope Award” in 2004 in recognition of fitMS and her dedication to helping MS patients improve their mobility. Joy has taught fitMS® and spoken at patient and healthcare provider education events across the country since 2003.

Joy founded fitMS® NeuroBalance Center (not-for-profit – NFP 501(c)3 Public Charity) in 2010 with the goal of providing more services to address the unmet needs of the MS population and all those with Neuromuscular conditions that threaten independence. Joy continues to educate patients and healthcare providers about MS.