A Coventry man with Multiple Sclerosis has spoken of the surprising benefits of using an alternative method alongside treatment for his ongoing health condition.
Shan Akhtar was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis in 2004 – a lifelong condition that affects the brain and nerves, with common symptoms including tiredness, vision problems and problems with walking or balance.
But he says one thing has had a profound effect on his life – gardening.
He told CoventryLive how the activity was helping to strengthen his hand and arms, give him more range of movement and benefit his sleeping.
Mr Akhtar, who uses a wheelchair, attends horticultural therapy sessions at the Birmingham-based charity Thrive.
He said: “Gardening with Thrive gives me a sense of purpose and structure in my life. I have managed to increase stamina and range of movement in my hand and arm.
“Above all it gets me up and moving. It gets me out of the house.
“It is safe but challenging, exhausting as well as restful. A day out to Thrive helps with my sleep patterns and sets me up for the rest of the week.”
Mr Akhtar’s consultant neurologist also sees the difference – telling him ‘The more the better’.
Although he has been shielding at home as he is from a ethnic minority which faces higher risks of dying from Covid-19, he is still enjoying the benefits of his own garden.
And he is encouraging people to spend time in gardens and nature to stay fit.
“There’s a lot of evidence to show that being in nature is so good for us. For me, it’s been life changing,” he said.
Support for MS in the city
We spoke to Mercia MS Therapy Centre, which was established in Coventry in 1984 by a group of multiple sclerosis sufferers.
The centre provides therapies, advice and support for people with multiple sclerosis, cancer, those recovering from stroke, children with cerebral palsy and autism to name a few.
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Mary McDermott, the MS Therapy Centre manager said: “Much can be done to relieve and improve symptoms of MS and many other conditions using the following therapies Physiotherapy, Counselling, Oxygen Therapy, Yoga, Acupuncture, Reflexology, Massage, Foot healthcare, Viofor magnotherapy.”
She added: “The atmosphere at the centre helps to break down the feelings of isolation and helplessness often associated with this illness.
“One of our most popular therapies is our physiotherapy. It plays a vital role in containing the effects of MS and helping people maintain some mobility and independence.”