Tracking for Success
By: Nurse Kimberly
In all of my experiences as a Nurse, there is one habit that I’ve found time and again to be very useful to my patients—tracking their MS symptoms. It’s one of the best things you can do if you have multiple sclerosis. It helps you, as well as your healthcare team, to better understand MS and create a more accurate picture of how you are doing.
Multiple sclerosis symptoms are erratic. They are up and down, they come and they go, they may last for hours or go on for days. It’s this unpredictability that can often make people feel out of control. But tracking your MS symptoms is something you are in control of, and by keeping track of your symptoms, you’re playing an important role in your treatment journey.
Knowing what MS symptoms to track
So, where to start? First you need to know what you are tracking. What are the multiple sclerosis symptoms you should be looking for? I tell my patients, “Don’t overthink it,” and “it doesn’t matter how small you think it is, write it down.” Capture anything that you know is an MS symptom, like fatigue, trouble going through your daily routine, or anything that just feels “different,” as MS symptoms come in many forms.
You know yourself best, so if something feels “off” to you, odds are it is most likely something you should record.
It is important to record not just the symptom, but to include additional details such as the date, time, and its severity. If you’re not sure of the time, think of where you were when you felt a symptom. Were you out shopping when your hand felt numb? How long did it last? Were you gardening the day before, or lounging around on your backyard patio? Was the numbness mild or severe? This is all valuable information your healthcare team will want to know at your next visit.
No matter what, being accurate and concise when monitoring your symptoms is a huge factor when it comes to managing MS. That means really staying dedicated and paying close attention to how you’re feeling on a regular basis. I’m confident that once you get in the habit, it will become second nature.
I know what to track, but how do I track my multiple sclerosis symptoms?
There are several ways to record your symptoms, but one of the best ways is to jot down notes in a diary or a small notebook that you keep close at hand. Since cell phones have taken the place of pen and paper for many of us, using your phone may be a more convenient way to record your symptoms. There are also plenty of online tools and mobile apps created specifically for tracking your symptoms, like the MS One to One Symptom Tracker where you can write down your symptoms, how long they last, and how much they’re affecting your daily life.
Why should I track my relapsing MS symptoms?
You may be thinking that this sounds like a lot of work, or an unwelcome reminder of your MS, but understanding how important symptom tracking is to your health may change your mind. I’ve seen too many patients with the “out of sight, out of mind" way of thinking. Although you may not be able to see certain symptoms, there may still be signs of damage inside your body. Even if you think you’re doing OK on the outside, MS may be progressing.
Don’t let that progression sneak up on you! Track your symptoms with precision and bring your notes straight to your healthcare provider. Don’t be afraid to share all of your symptoms, even those you may feel a little self-conscious talking about. At this point, your healthcare team has probably heard and seen it all from one patient or another. Nothing is off limits when it comes to discussing your health and tracking your symptoms—especially if it means getting the best treatment for you. With your observations and your healthcare provider’s knowledge, you may have the ability to help slow the progression of MS.
- What to track: Record all of your symptoms, especially those things that feel “different.”
- How to track: Determine the method of recording your symptoms that works for you—pen and paper or mobile phone.
- Why it’s important to track: Because it may help your neurologist assess how well your treatment is working.