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One of the things I’ve learned over 20 years living with multiple sclerosis (MS) is that patients are experts in a way that doctors, drug companies, and even MS societies could never be.
We are incredibly resourceful at figuring out the workarounds and life hacks that help us make the most of life with chronic illness.
When it comes to living well with MS, here are 14 products you may not have heard about from your doctor.
Adhesive toe warmers are a lifesaver for anyone with the kind of dysesthesia that leads to chronically cold feet.
Last October, I was in Paris and thought my trip was ruined when I realized I’d run out. Fortunately, I was able to have some shipped directly to the hotel. My trip was saved!
I buy these in bulk and wear them year-round.
Shop for toe warmers online.
I’m passionate about destigmatizing mobility aids, and use my Instagram platform to help normalize the use of rollators for MS.
My favorite rollators are from byAcre and Rollz. Both companies are leaders in their field, providing lightweight, functional, and, best of all, sleek and stylish design.
Shop for rollators online.
I rely on the prelubricated single-use catheters by SpeediCath to make the experience of intermittent self-catheterization easier and safer.
They’re discreet, easily transportable, and their high-polish exterior means fewer urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Note that these products are available by prescription only, so you’ll need to have a conversation with your doctor if the product you’re currently using is causing discomfort.
While we’re on the topic of bladder health, D-mannose is a type of natural sugar that, when taken as a supplement, may prevent or lessen symptoms of UTIs.
As a catheter user, I’m happy to report that I’ve found D-mannose to be effective at reducing the number of infections I get. Ask your doctor if this supplement is right for you.
Shop for D-mannose online.
We’re almost done in the bathroom — I promise.
MS often causes bowel troubles and constipation.
These little stools (no pun intended) live under your toilet and position your body in a posture that’s the most conducive to pooping. Hooray!
Shop for toilet stools online.
I recently started using an electric toothbrush after a relapse caused the swallowing problem dysphagia and a speech language pathologist (SLP) advised me to keep my mouth extra clean.
Some SLPs recommend brushing upwards of 6 times a day (before and after you eat), so that if food or drink goes down the wrong way you’ll be less likely to introduce bacteria into your lungs.
My teeth feel dentist-clean all the time now, and the electric toothbrush saves my tired arm a little energy. Win-win.
Shop for electric toothbrushes online.
I love the super stylish bags made by FFORA. They come in bold colors, attach to most wheelchairs, and come with detachable straps so you can also wear them.
The team at FFORA has thought of everything — even the packaging is a breeze to open.
Designed for dancers, these socks have a tread that will keep you from slipping when you’re not wearing shoes indoors.
The added bonus — and real reason I love them — is that they help keep my toes from curling.
Shop for toe socks with grips online.
If you have drop foot, ask your doctor or physiotherapist if a drop foot brace is right for you.
I personally use the Dictus Band ankle strap. This is a discreet, lightweight, and comparatively inexpensive orthotic that attaches to your shoe to help with this common MS symptom.
I’m walking noticeably faster and have more endurance since I started using mine a few months ago.
Shop for drop foot braces online.
The COVID-19 crisis has meant that I no longer have access to the gym in my building, and it’s not easy to take my workout outside in winter — or during the summer heat, for that matter.
An under-desk elliptical is so compact it doesn’t take up extra space in my cozy apartment.
Many models have a 30-day return policy, so it’s a low-risk investment if you discover it’s not right for you.
Shop for under-desk ellipticals online.
My blender is my all-time favorite appliance.
I have a smoothie for breakfast almost every day. It’s the easiest, tastiest way to sneak in a lot of nutrition and fluids all at once.
Shop for blenders online.
We’ve all heard the recommended directive to get 10,000 steps a day. That’s not a number that’s even close to possible for me, and I have more than once been asked why I bother to wear a step counter, which I jokingly refer to as my “Sitbit.”
I rely on my activity tracker to motivate me — and it works.
I can see how many steps I’m taking week over week, month over month, and even year over year. It can be a tool that helps identify progression or even improvement.
What gets measured gets managed.
Shop for activity trackers online.
Sleep is so important. It’s when our brains repair themselves.
Many people with MS deal with sleep issues, and I use a sleep mask and heavy-duty earplugs to give myself the best odds at a good night’s sleep.
Shop for sleep masks online.
My presenting MS symptom in 2001 was a severe case of optic neuritis in both eyes.
Back then, I was limited to large print books and the selections were very much geared to older adults.
Luckily, technology has caught up. Now I can access an unlimited supply of books on my e-reader, and I can make the font big enough to see from space.
Shop for e-readers online.
MS is a moving target — and even after 20 years, things are always changing.
If there are tasks you’re struggling with in day-to-day life, ask your neurologist for a referral to an occupational therapist who just might surprise you with some creative ways to hack your MS.
In the meantime, keep voicing what you need to live well with chronic illness.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and who knows what the next generation of innovators will come up with to make life with MS a little easier.
Ardra Shephard is the influential Canadian blogger behind the award-winning blog Tripping On Air — the irreverent insider scoop about her life with multiple sclerosis. Ardra is a script consultant for AMI’s television series about dating and disability, “There’s Something You Should Know,” and has been featured on Sickboy Podcast. Ardra has contributed to msconnection.org, The Mighty, xojane, Yahoo Lifestyle, and others. In 2019, she was the keynote speaker at the MS Foundation of the Cayman Islands. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, or hashtag #babeswithmobilityaids to be inspired by people working to change perceptions of what it looks like to live with a disability.