Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) - otherwise known as Lou Gehrigs disease - is a little-known disorder with a big impact. Find out what it is, and learn how to make a difference!
Most of us take our ability to get outside and enjoy the summer months—whether we spend that time hiking, camping, kayaking, or any other sunshiny activity—for granted. Unfortunately, for the thousands of Canadians living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), having a little fun in the sun isn’t quite as easy as tying up the shoe laces and hitting the trails.
Lou Gehrig’s 101
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a disease that damages the neurons in the brain and spinal cord that control movement. Researchers don’t know what causes it, but environmental factors such as smoking and lead exposure can increase our risk.
The damaged neurons eventually waste away, so the brain slowly loses the ability to send electrical impulses to the muscles—meaning that patients with the disease slowly lose the ability to pack a picnic, walk along the beach, or even tie their shoes. Other common symptoms include cramps, tight or stiff muscles, difficulty chewing, and slurred speech.
While there is a conventional medication available, many people diagnosed with the disorder also rely on different therapies to help them maintain a good quality of life.
Physical therapy is commonly prescribed to help patients prevent cramps and tight muscles and improve cardiovascular health, among other things. Some exercises that physical therapists may recommend include stretching exercises or low-impact aerobic exercises such as swimming and riding a stationary bike.
Relaxation techniques, including deep breathing techniques, can be taught to patients in order to help them speak more easily, and to help manage feelings of stress and anxiety.
Many patients have also found that other therapies—including hypnotherapy, acupuncture, and reiki—help them manage fear, anxiety, and some physical symptoms of the disorder.
Lend a hand!
Studies are underway to determine the causes of the disorder, to find more treatment options, and—eventually—to find a cure.
Want to lend a hand to the cause? One great way is to spread the word about Lou Gerhig’s disease. Another is to stretch your legs this June and take part in one of the many Walks for ALS that are taking place all across Canada!