The challenges and symptoms of multiple sclerosis can impact the entire body. So, it’s necessary to have a MS treatment team full of healthcare professionals.
Building a skilled multiple sclerosis treatment team can be difficult. But, it is an important step to ensure that you feel comfortable with your care.
Open and honest dialogue with all members of your treatment team can be useful in many ways including helping you:
- better understand multiple sclerosis
- identify and choose treatment options
- weigh the risks and benefits of care and lifestyle options
- avoid conflicting treatment goals or plans
Multiple Sclerosis Treatment Team
Typically, prior to being formally diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, you will be referred to a neurologist because of certain symptoms. Some neurologists specialize in MS, while others treat a broader range of neurological disorders.
Because of this experience and specialization, your neurologist will serve as the cornerstone of your MS treatment team. Be sure to build around a neurologist that you trust.
Neurologists are doctors that have studied the nervous system. To help measure the nervous system, neurologists may use the following tools and tests:
- Computed axial tomography (CAT) scans
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Ultrasounds of the head and/or neck
- Electroencephalography (EEG)
- Nerve conduction studies (NCS)
- Examination of gait
- Tests of reflexes or sensation
Physiatrists are also known as Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physicians. They are doctors that may have sub-specializations including brain injury, spinal cord injuries, sports medicine, and more.
Often, a physiatrist will be the leader of the rehabilitation team. The goals of working with a physiatrist is to develop a treatment plan that helps you live at your highest level possible while minimizing any limitations you may experience. These goals can be attained through the use of exercises and assistive devices.
Primary Care Doctor (PCP)
Your primary care doctor is focussed on your overall health. She will act as the point person or coordinator of your care team, not just your MS treatment team.
While your neurologist will likely act as the key decision maker for you MS treatment, it is useful for your PCP and neurologist to work together. MS can cause challenges throughout your body and it can be challenging to find the root cause of symptoms without a collaborative treatment team.
Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, & Speech/Language Pathologists
These clinicians specialize in rehabilitation to promote mobility, function, and quality of life. They can be useful for rebuilding strength and flexibility to ensure autonomy and quality of life.
An occupational therapist’s job is to find ways to make it easier for you to accomplish your day-to-day goals including tasks like cooking, eating, getting dressed, and more. An occupational therapist will work with you, your family, and your community to find clever ways to let you continue to live your own way.
If you are having a hard time managing pain or staying active, adding a physical therapist to your MS treatment team can help. Your joints will be healthier if they are active, and finding ways to keep you active is what your PT is best at.
Speech/language pathologists (S/LP) provide support and solutions for speech production to ensure clear and accurate communications. They can also help with swallowing problems to make sure that eating is safe.
Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Neuropsychologists, & Counselors
These doctors and counselors specialize in the study of behavior and the mind. They help support people and develop strategies to combat depression, anxiety, stress management, fear and phobia management, and more
These providers can also track and help improve cognitive changes including memory problems, attention issues, and difficulty with complex problem-solving.
Note: Psychiatrists are able to write prescriptions whereas psychologists and counselors rely on non-medicinal methods only.
Dietitians and Nutritionists
NOTE: Dietitians receive specialized training and a degree – they can either be registered dietitians (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). The term dietitian can only be used by those that have met the professional requirements which include a bachelor’s degree with accredited nutrition curriculum, satisfactory performance on a registration exam, and an internship at an approved facility. View additional information on the qualifications here.
The term nutritionist is NOT protected. That means that any person may call themselves a nutritionist whether they have any specialized training or not – and some accreditations are astoundingly easy to receive. To this point, Dr. Ben Goldacre was able to have his dead cat, Hettie, accredited as a professional member of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants for just $60. Because of this, it is important to research the background of any nutritional information you receive and maintain an open dialogue with your gastroenterologist and primary care physician about your health.
- Dietitians change the foods you eat to help assess, diagnose, and treat nutritional problems.
- Dietitians may establish individual health plans to meet goals and can leverage special services, including tube feedings, diets, and more.