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Julie  Stachowiak, Ph.D.

Low Muscle Endurance and Impaired Gait in Early MS

By January 31, 2012

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One small study has demonstrated that people in the very early stages of multiple sclerosis (MS) have much lower muscle endurance than people without MS, which may affect their gait.

Comparing a group of 52 people with early MS to 28 healthy volunteers, the researchers found that people with MS had 40 percent less muscle endurance than those without MS.

In addition, the people with MS had specific gait abnormalities, including:

  • walking with a wider base (legs farther apart) for stability
  • walked more slowly
  • walked in an asymmetrical pattern
  • took shorter steps

The researchers do say that early intervention with physical therapy and exercise can help our endurance and potentially cut back on some of the fatigue that we deal with.

I don't know if I have low muscle endurance or abnormal gait. Maybe I do, but it's normal for me and I'm just used to it.

What about you? Have you ever had your gait formally assessed? Do you feel like your muscle endurance is low? Please leave your comments below.

February 1, 2012 at 2:20 am
(1) Vana says:

yes I agree totally with the above nmentioned article. In fact abnormal gait and ataxia as well as left leg muscle weaknesses where the symptoms that made me investigate and find out about my ms, last year. The MRI showed many lesions in the spinal cord that can justify leg problems. Now I have physiotherapy sessions twice a week to improve my gait, balance and muscle strength.

February 1, 2012 at 6:06 am
(2) One year on says:

I was diagnosed just over a year ago and am definitely noticing changes in my walking and growing weakness in my legs. It’s frustrating because a year and a half ago, I was running five miles regularly. Now I struggle to walk to the subway to get to work. I still run now and then, but mentally I definitely feel held back.

February 1, 2012 at 11:55 am
(3) Frank says:

I have had primary progressive ms for over twenty years.. It started with an occasiona limpl and no other symptoms.

Gradully, I lost my sense of balance. Never have had pain or any other
of the classic symptoms. More recently I’ve used a cane, a walker and sometimes a power wheelchair.

Both my neurologist and my PT have said “learn to live with it”.

What do I do now?

February 1, 2012 at 11:55 am

I am totally with you Julie! I am apologizing way too ofter because I can’t remember someone’s name. Just out of the blue…….Aunt Barbara is Aunt “Blank”. And I find myself unable to be as active in my church as I once was but that is ok, God totally knows and understands so I don’t have to apologize to Him!

February 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm
(5) Susan says:

I have been diagnosed with MS for 28 years. My legs are weak, the right one much weaker than the left. I walk with a limp but no assistive device. I was very consientious about exercising for a two year period a couple of years ago. I have also tried electrical stimulatiion and physical therapy. Since I never noticed any progress, I quit all of the above and did not have a decline. I have decided if the nerves aren’t working that there is nothing that can help certain people like me.

February 1, 2012 at 4:33 pm
(6) Cara says:

I am newly diagnosed as PPMS and was very interested in the article on muscle endurance and gait problems. They are the main reason for my referral to a neurologist, along with tingling sensation in my tongue. Prior to that it was many trips to the MD, physiotherapist, chiropractor etc with no improvement. I am seeing a new physio who assessed me and has recommended working on balance and “core” exercises for stability. She also suggested I would perhaps benefit from a cane, but that is pretty hard to accept. She did say that due to my balance problems, my muscles are working extra hard to keep me upright and that a cane may actually help me to be less tired as the day wears on. My main goal is to try and maintain the function I have, but it seems my symptoms are steadily increasing. I was told attitude and exercise are the only things the medical community can suggest.

February 1, 2012 at 7:01 pm
(7) Susan Russo says:

Dear Cara,

Your therapist is right. I resisted using a cane because I felt old. I needed it. Now I use a walker. Any device that helps you to get out and about is well worth it. I am in PT now and we work on gait, balance and
building up my stamina. I’ve had MS for 15yrs now. I am not on any of the meds because of side effects. I’m doing ok, hope to get stronger.
Good luck to you and all of us who struggle with this disease.

February 2, 2012 at 9:44 am
(8) Nancy says:

I have always had a wider than normal gait pattern. After diagnosis I had my gait reviewed by a specialist in gait analysis. Without telling him I had MS, he commented on my wide gait pattern and how unstable I was when walking. It didn’t take long for the specialist to put it all together.

February 2, 2012 at 9:47 am
(9) Barbara says:

I have had M.S. for over 20yrs. and now wear a leg brace on my right leg. it is still difficult to keep balance but it does help. I do find myself not going out as much for fear of tripping & falling, i am very slow, but still keep trying. GOD BLESS US ALL !!!

February 2, 2012 at 7:07 pm
(10) ireneg says:

I was diagnosed at age 66 after years of complaining about muscle weakness and difficulty walking. I told a neurologist that I walked like an old lady (I was 65 at the time). The neurologist said that I walked like a 65 year old with arthritis. That neurologist missed the MS diagnosis as did the radilogist who msread my MRI. My mobility has continued to decrease. I exercise and have maintained strength. Unfortunately, my muscles are not getting the stimulus they need from my damaged nerves and therefore I cannot lift my right knee and have difficulty walking. I am on “the list” to receive the Bioness L 300 Plus when it is finally available. The Plus is a a thigh cuff that stimulates either the hamstrings or quads to lift the knee when walking . This iaddition to the L-300 that prevents foot drop miraculously coordinates all aspects of walking. Hopefully when I have the plus, I will be able to walk with a better gait and be able to increase my endurance. When I tried the device last fall, I found it to be very, very helpful

February 3, 2012 at 7:56 pm
(11) Lisa Scroggins says:

I had my gait assessed in 2010 at MS Can Do, but since then, have had multiple problems (broken ankle, surgery to repair). I believe the MS has progressed…or is it that the “fatigue” has worsened, and/or that my muscle endurance is lessened, and/or that my balance is worse then before? It’s probably all three things. I’ve always hated the term “fatigue,” because I don’t think it adequately describes what it feels like. It’s more that my body just WON’T DO what I used to take for granted! It used to be that a short rest would revive me, but now, that rest has to be longer. It never has to do with sleeping. I’m taking one-on-one instruction in Pilates to strengthen my core muscles, and trying to get cardio exercise as many days of the week as I can manage.

February 5, 2012 at 11:49 pm
(12) Angela says:

I noticed that my foot would “slap” the ground after walking a few miles more than a dozen years ago. That was it until I was diagnosed by an incidental MRI 2 years ago.

Since my diagnosis I have made a point of stepping up the exercise with resiistance work. It has made a difference. Even years after the first symptom I am making a lot of progress.

Don’t give up. The body can do some amazing things.

February 9, 2012 at 1:15 am
(13) murray says:

is any person tired of hearing i have to use a cane ad nauseum,
this site is “we are all so sorry for having a disease”
This is what you do .u get on a stationery bike you pedal it….cant pedal it. go to the exercise lab and get on a electric bike which turns the
pedals very slowly. after 6 months you will be able to pedal it
with out the electrics.
i could not walk or use a knife and fork so i practiced until i could
Stop getting people around you to share in the loser syndrome of
“i am so sick” what can they do for you?
nothing,,you are in charge of you.
Lose weight,,cant lose? go to bed with just a bowl of corn flakes(as much as fills you) you can be 0.5 kilos less in the morning.
Cant sleep cause you have not pigged out and you tummy growls?
take a sleeping pill. cant take an interferon shot because it is too painful?
take two aspros an hour before.
Stop making allowances for your trouble ..stop the trouble
I want to hear success stories .not moaning

March 1, 2012 at 3:05 pm
(14) Cathy Manners says:

Murray, these people are venting to express their pain, frustration and resistance to the downward spiral that the MonSter entails. much as we’d like it to be about successes often there aren’t any. Cut them some slack.

April 16, 2012 at 6:05 pm
(15) ireneg says:

I have received the Bioness L300 Plus and I am thrilled. I have had the L300 for just over two years. The Plus has improved my gait by stimulating mu hamstring muscles.. I am trying to walk more so that I can build up endurance and decrease fatigue. In the short time that I have been using the Plus, I have found that I am more willing to get out and walk. I am hoping for the day when a neighborhood walk will be part of my evening routine.

September 13, 2012 at 9:56 am
(16) nydia says:

Frankly, I’m tires of my inconsistent gait pattern. Sometimes my gait is fine and then just moments later I’ve got this wobbly thing going on. The uncertainty is unnerving. I don’t use a cane because I don’t see the use and I look WORSE when I use it.

February 16, 2014 at 9:10 pm
(17) Renee says:

My gait is slowly getting worse. My diagnosis was 9 years ago, but I’ve only felt the change in gait about a year ago. My Nero. says I don’t need more physical therapy, I will just have to exercise on my own. 😞 I started using a scooter at work b/c my walking was so wobbly. My left knew gives out, and my left ankle twists, buckles, and has made me fall a few times. Also, restroom issues are getting worse. Anyone else can’t hold it when you know it’s far away? Ugh.

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