MS Awareness Week

MS is a condition that affects many of our customers or their loved ones. In the UK, 1 in 500 people live with MS. Even if you don’t know anyone with it directly, most people have heard of and are aware of it. However, the vast majority are still largely unaware of what the condition entails and what the symptoms include. Therefore, this MS Awareness Week, we have decided to help raise awareness by giving a basic overview of what MS is and how it can affect people’s lives; along with a selection of products we think could be of most benefit.

An orange ribbon logo for Multiple Sclerosis Awareness.

What is MS?

MS, short for multiple sclerosis, is a condition that affects the central nervous system. This system uses a substance called myelin to protect the nerve fibres, allowing messages to be passed quickly and fluidly from the brain, down the spinal cord, to the rest of the body. In cases of multiple sclerosis, the immune system mistakes myelin for a foreign body and attacks it. This damages the myelin, stripping it from the nerve fibres and leaving scars or lesions. These lesions cause disruptions to the messages from the brain trying to get through, causing them to slow down, become distorted or not get through at all. The damage to the myelin, along with potential damage to the nerve fibres themselves, is what causes the person to have their “disabilities”. There is no known cure for MS, although treatments and specialists are available to help manage the condition and its symptoms.

What Are The Symptoms of MS?

Much like a spinal cord injury, MS is different for everyone. As the central nervous system links to everything your body does, multiple sclerosis can affect any area/areas of the body and their functions. The specific symptoms depend on which area of a person’s central nervous system has been affected, the extent of the damage, and the job of the damaged nerve. 

Some of the more common symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs
  • Tingling
  • Loss of balance or dizziness
  • Stiffness or spasms
  • Tremors
  • Pain
  • Bladder and bowel trouble
  • Vision problems
  • Slurred speech
  • Problems with memory and thinking
  • Mood disturbances
Infographic showing the symptoms of MS: vision changes, muscle weakness, numbness or pain, loss of balance, cognitive and mood changes.

All of these symptoms bring with them complications for everyday life. Medication is available to help manage pain and other internal symptoms; but what about the external ones? MS can affect every facet of day to day life, from the moment a person wakes up to the moment they go to bed. On top of walking, basic actions such as picking things up and holding onto them can become increasingly problematic. For these, specialist aids and equipment are required. 

At Active Hands, we cater for every kind of disability that affects upper limb function, including MS. We believe there is a way round even the most frustrating of arm function issues; in fact, especially those ones! With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the various aspects of daily life, how MS can affect each of them, and suggest a few products we think could help. 

Morning Routine

No-one is at their most energetic first thing on a morning. Yet every morning we all have to go through the same wash, brush, and dress routine to start the day. This can be especially trying if, due to MS, you wake up feeling fatigued, numb and dizzy. 

When in the bath or shower, we recommend trying the Body Washer. It enables you to clean hard to reach areas like your back, legs and feet without needing to worry about flexibility. With soft bristles on one side and massage bumps on the other, you get a wash that’s both thorough and therapeutic. The handle on each end allows you to slip your hands in and hold on without the need for grip.

lady using the body washer to wash her back

When it comes to using finicky items like toothbrushes, hairbrushes, make-up utensils and razors, the Small Item Gripping Aid ensures each stays in your hand without risk of grip fatigue setting in. The interchangeable Palm Pads mean you can switch between items in seconds, perfect for saving time.

We have numerous “product hacks” when it comes to getting dressed. The likes of the Button PullerZip Grips, and Zubits Magnetic Laces all speed up the dressing process for those of us with upper limb weakness, numbness or spasms. If fiddly jewellery clasps are proving problematic then try the Magnetic Necklace Clasps which enable you to put jewellery on in seconds!

Dressing aids for those with limited hand function: button pullers, zip grips rings for zips, zubits magnetic shoe fasteners and magnetic necklace clasps

In the Kitchen

When it comes to food and drink prep, the likes of hand weakness, tremors, loss of balance, and vision problems can make it potentially hazardous when using sharp implements or hot liquids. Couple that with the overall frustration that can build up from struggling in the kitchen, and it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed.

Luckily there are products available to help make kitchen life less complicated; products like the EazyHold Straps. Available in a variety of sizes, these versatile, anti-slip straps fit over almost any kitchen implement or utensil. Slide your hand in and the strap pins the item to your hand, allowing you to stir, chop and slice.

Designed to work with all kinds of food and drink bottles, jars and cans the 5-in-1 Opener is handy in the kitchen. It saves you the struggle of trying to fight your way in when your fingers are fatigued.

To get into food packaging there’s the Nimble that fits onto your finger. A tiny blade allows you to slice open awkward packaging just by running your finger along it. 

Aids to help in the kitchen: Eazyholds straps, 5-in1 opener, Nimble and Uccello easy-pour kettle

To remove the risk that tremors can pose when pouring boiling water, we have the Uccello Easy-Pour Kettle. Sat on a pivoting base, this kettle operates using a “tip to pour” method. This means that, once the kettle has boiled, there’s no need to pick it up. Instead, you just gently push the handle, causing the kettle to tip forwards and pour the water through the tapered spout and into the mug (or suitable vessel) you have positioned in front of it.

Once you’ve finished preparing your drink/meal, we have options available to help you carry it through without spillage. For individual drinks, there’s the SpillNot. The scientific design of this product means that, once you have sat your drink on the coaster and picked it up via the loop at the top, it is incredibly difficult to spill the contents. Swing the SpillNot as much as you like, the contents will, well, not spill! For transporting larger items like plates, bowls or multiple drinks, we have the SpillNot Plus!

Tucking In

Once the prep is out of the way, it’s time to sit down and enjoy the fruits (and veg) of your labour! However, hand tremors and limb weakness can make this hard work and take away much of the pleasure.

To combat this, we suggest trying out our selection of Cutlery With Loops. Designed to fit over the thumb and forefinger, the adjustable loops hold the cutlery in place. This allows you to eat independently, without fear of having the cutlery slip from your grasp and clatter onto the floor. If you are concerned about spillages from the likes of soup and cereal, then there’s the S’up Spoon. With a deep cavity built into the handle, this spoon keeps liquids stored inside, greatly reducing spillages resulting from tremors or spasms. 

Cutlery with loops fork showing how you can hold it on your finger and thumb and a sup for eating with tremors

Similar spillages, along with painful burns and stains, can occur when holding a mug full of tea, coffee or juice. The Hand Steady Mug is recommended to help reduce the risk. The self-stabilising function built into it means that, no matter how much your hand may shake as you grip the handle, the mug itself will remain steady and level. This allows you to bring it up to your mouth without worry. It comes with an optional lid that sits inside the cup, keeping drinks hotter for longer whilst controlling the flow as you drink.

Out and About

Whether getting in the car, walking the dog, or pottering about in the garden; taking a few extra minutes to plan before going out is essential to those of us with disabilities like MS. It can save a whole load of anxiety, especially if issues relating to fatigue, weakness and balance start to make us wonder if it’s even worth the hassle. 

Our brand new Lite Aid can help strip away many of these concerns. Working in the same way as the General Purpose Aid, the Lite Aid is the quick and easy way of keeping hold of everyday items when you have limb weakness. It can be used in a multitude of scenarios, such as carrying shopping bags, working with gardening or DIY tools, pushing trolleys/walkers/pushchairs etc. Strap it around your wrist and use the overhand strap to close your fingers on whatever you want to hold. When not in use, the Lite Aid can be folded backwards and stored on your wrist until needed again.

The lite aid can be used around the home to hold bags, walking frames and knives

The High-Grip Steering Wheel Cover is perfect for drivers whose hands can tire when maintaining grip over a sustained period. Fit the cover over your steering wheel and the silicone grip makes it much easier to turn the wheel. Once on, you never need to remove it, so it’s always ready for use.

High-grip steering wheel cover on a Ford Mondeo

Keep your cuddly canine under control when out for walks with the Handy Leash Dog Lead. Instead of relying on grip, the neoprene handle slips over your hand and fastens around your thumb. A shock absorbing component is based in the centre of the lead, reducing strain on your hand when your dog suddenly gets sight of the neighbourhood cat! If you find it a struggle clipping the lead onto the collar, then try the MagLoc Connector. Once fitted, the lead and collar are drawn to each other magnetically and then lock together mechanically. To detach, lightly squeeze on both sides. 

no-grip dog lead taking dog for walk

In Summary

So there we have it, a handful of helpful aids, designed to make living with MS as manageable as possible. There are a whole host of items we weren’t able to include here. You can find the full selection of products by visiting the shop page of our website. See if you, or someone you know, could benefit from a helping hand this MS Awareness Week.

To learn more about MS or to donate, visit:

MS awareness 'Hope' with the O replaced with the orange ribbon

Gareth Herridge

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