How to Train a Client with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) 

How to Train a Client with Multiple Sclerosis

As a special needs fitness trainer or a personal trainer for Multiple Sclerosis, you’re set apart from other fitness training professionals because you take the time to learn about your clients’ differing abilities. You do this by first understanding the client’s fitness goals as well as performing a physical assessment test to see how they perform. It’s during the process that you’ll learn how to better serve them as a personal trainer. Here’s how to train a client with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

What Is Multiple Sclerosis?

Before you can hope to understand your clients on an individual level, you must first understand their physical disability, which is very important if you want to appropriately modify exercises in their workout program. Unlike other physical disabilities, MS can shift and change: It’s an autoimmune disease, meaning that white blood cells attack the central nervous system, “thinking” it unnatural and unwelcome. The white blood cells go on to deteriorate part of the spinal cord and brain, leading to lesions (which is where we get the term “Sclerosis”).

The signals transmitted from the brain to the muscles in the body can be misinterpreted. This often results in limited mobility in certain body parts. The extent to which each person is affected varies. It primarily depends on the location of the lesion and the severity of the autoimmune disease. Your clients with MS may be in wheelchairs or move independently. Just because a person with MS has full function in their hands one day does not mean that they necessarily will the next.

With this in mind, you’re not only adapting your workout routines from individual to individual, but you’re also doing it from day to day, comparing your client’s current range of motion to yesterday’s. What’s more: MS symptoms can start to improve with physical therapy. However, relapse is also possible, as the physical ailments are caused by the autoimmune disease, not the other way around.

How to Train a Client with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Fully Understand the Disability

Yes, we mentioned this above, but it’s that important: It’s worth mentioning twice. Before you can properly train someone with Multiple Sclerosis, you have to fully understand their autoimmune disease and how it impacts your clients’ physical capabilities.

Part of understanding MS isn’t just understanding the definition, which we loosely provided in the previous section. It’s about studying specific cases and seeing how the lesions in the spinal cord impact range of mobility, from moment to moment. See for yourself how exercise can help individuals with MS, and see how the autoimmune disease can lead to relapses, big and small.

Perform Daily Assessment Tests

The term “daily,” here, refers to each session. At the start of each session with your client, you’ll need to perform a mini-assessment test to see if their physical capabilities have changed, for better or for worse. Usually, an assessment would take up the entire training session, but with MS clients, you’ll need to adapt your methods to fit their needs.

Create a short five- to 10-minute assessment, so you can see how their range of motion has changed since your last session together. If everything is the same or better, great! Carry on with your workout regimen as planned. If not, however, then you’ll need to change course — which brings us to our next point:

Memorize Modified Exercises

You may find yourself needing to change your approach with your client following an assessment test. This could be because their physical capabilities have changed for the worse. As a result, it would be necessary for you to have a series of modified exercises ready. By this, it is implied that you should have memorized these modified exercises. This preparation will allow you to adjust quickly if needed. You can then promptly instruct your clients to perform these modified exercises when the situation calls for it.

Adapting to your customer from session to session is challenging if you’re not familiar with adjusted routines. Your ability to adapt is inextricably linked to your ability to be an effective personal trainer to an MS client.

Measure Daily Progress — No Matter How Small

Because you’ll be performing micro-assessment tests at the start of each session, this will be much easier for you to do: measure daily progress. However, you’ll also need to take notes as your clients perform the workout routine you instruct them through.

Taking note of even minuscule changes can keep you (and your clients!) motivated to keep moving forward.

Compare Notes with Colleagues

Did you know that therapists will meet up and discuss client notes with each other? They meet with colleagues to compare notes, seeing what methods are working and which ones aren’t. Therapy is based on overarching cognitive theories, but ultimately, boils down to how each individual needs to be treated.

The very same can be said of trainers of MS clients. All your clients with MS are dealing the same autoimmune disease, but they may not all have the same symptoms. What’s more: Each person has a different upbringing, so either way, they’re going to expect different things ranging from how they believe they should be treated to how hard they’re willing to work to achieve their goals.

Meet up with other MS personal trainers so hear about what’s working for your colleagues’ clients and see if there’s anything you can apply to yours.


Safety Measure Training for Clients with Multiple Sclerosis

Working with clients diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) requires specialized training to ensure their safety and well-being throughout fitness sessions. Here are key safety measures to incorporate into your training regimen:

  1. Medical Assessment:

    • Prior to initiating any exercise program, conduct a comprehensive medical assessment. This should encompass an in-depth understanding of the client’s specific symptoms, physical limitations, and medical history.
    • Consultation with their healthcare team should also be carried out. This professional insights can ensure that you obtain necessary medical guidance and that the fitness regimen aligns with the client’s overall healthcare plan.
  2. Tailored Exercise Programs:

    • Based on the client’s individual needs and abilities, especially those diagnosed with MS, you would need to design personalized exercise routines.
    • The routine should focus on flexibility, balance, and strength training exercises, always keeping potential mobility challenges of the client in mind.
  3. Communication and Consent:

    • Communication forms an integral part of the fitness program, which necessitates maintaining open channels of communication with your client. This will aid in understanding any changes or escalations in their condition or symptoms.
    • Obtain informed consent and ensure the client feels comfortable expressing concerns or modifications needed during the session.
  4. Temperature Regulation:

    • Individuals with MS may be sensitive to temperature changes. Make sure to ventilate the exercise environment well and maintain a comfortable temperature.
    • Informed consent should be obtained before initiating any part of the fitness routine. It is essential to ensure the client feels comfortable in voicing any concerns or suggesting the need for modifications during the session.
  5. Adapted Equipment:

    • Modify or select equipment that enhances stability and minimizes the risk of falls or injury.
    • Consider incorporating supportive tools such as stability balls, resistance bands, or chairs for added balance.
  6. Gradual Progression:

    • Implement a gradual progression approach, allowing clients to adapt to new exercises at their own pace.
    • Monitor for signs of fatigue or discomfort, adjusting the intensity as needed.
  7. Supervision and Spotting:

    • Maintain a close supervision approach, especially during exercises that involve balance or coordination.
    • Be ready to assist or spot to prevent accidents or falls.
  8. Educate on Symptom Management:

    • Educate clients on managing MS symptoms, including fatigue, muscle weakness, and balance issues.
    • Discuss strategies for incorporating exercises that align with their energy levels and overall well-being.
  9. Regular Reassessment:

    • Conducting regular reassessments is crucial in an adaptive fitness regime. These assessments help track the client’s progress, evaluate the effectiveness of the current exercise program, and allow for timely interventions to address any emerging challenges.
    • Collaboration with healthcare professionals should also be a regular practice. This interaction ensures that your exercise programs keep abreast with any changes in the client’s medical condition and accurately align with the guidance provided by their healthcare team.
  10. Encourage Independence:

    • Emphasizing independence in MS clients is an essential function in their fitness journey. By empowering them with specific knowledge and skills, they can safely and confidently perform certain exercises on their own. This self-sufficiency can significantly enhance their self-confidence and foster a sense of independence.
    • Providing guidance on exercises that clients can do at home further bolsters this independent habit. Home exercises serve to maintain continuity in their fitness regime and nurture the active lifestyle beyond the confines of training sessions.

By integrating these safety measures into your training protocol, you can create a supportive and effective fitness environment for clients with Multiple Sclerosis, promoting their overall health and well-being.

Physical Training Certification for MS

Maybe you found this article because you have an interest in working with individuals who have Multiple Sclerosis. Maybe you were unsure if this was a career field at all, let alone one you could actually pursue. It’s not only real; You can satisfy your passions and aid folks with this autoimmune condition on this path.

When you take our Special Needs Fitness Trainer Certification, you’ll be one step closer to your dream job. However, unlike other certification programs, we won’t pigeon-hole you into learning about just one type of disability. Our training program teaches you about physical and cognitive challenges so you can help more clients live better, happier lives.


Strong Education teaches personal trainers and service providers on how to adapt fitness and nutrition for children, adolescents, and adults with autism, Down Syndrome, and other disabilities through our online adaptive special needs certification course.

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