Saturday, November 1, 2014

My exams may be unimpressive but I feel pretty lucky

“Your exam is really quite unimpressive”, says my neurologist this past week during my annual exam. These are the words I love to hear. Having someone tell me I’m “unimpressive” otherwise may actually hurt my feeling (wait, what? I’m not special?) yet during my exam, I love hearing this. Unimpressive means no new lesions per my last MRI, a normal physical examination (for an MSer anyway) and validates that the big T flowing through my veins every month is working and doing its magic.

Yes! Fist pump in the air.

The physical examination* is pretty standard for MSers. I read tiny letters on a visual chart, blink a bunch of times, watch the wand my doc presents in front of me go forward and backward, touch my nose with my index finger and then touch his finger, fold my arms and try to resist his push and then, subsequently, try to push him away, I (try to) listen for his snapping fingers coming closer to my ears (this part I always fail since I’m hard-of-hearing, ha-ha!), he uses cool instruments to test sensation on my feet, hands, arms and legs (think tuning fork), he uses a soft hammer on my knee to test for reflexes, AND THEN HE SCRAPES THAT BLUNT OBJECT ALONG THE BOTTOMS OF MY FEET – YOWZA! I abhor this part yet my doc always stresses that it is very, very important*. Then, I do a little walk down the hallway and voila! We’re done. The verdict? A normal physical exam.

Sure wish I had sneakers on during
the "scraping of a blunt object along the
bottoms of my feet part" of the exam!

And so it goes this way for the last 2 ½ years - he hasn’t been impressed with me for a while. Another fist pump in the air!

During my visits, my doc also interviews me about my symptoms, we chat about life in general, and he gives me advice. It is during this part of my exam that we talk further about ensuring my quality of life is productive and happy. He is a huge advocate in empowerment and not letting MS get in the way of doing things we love.

Over the last couple of years, after walking longer distances, my right leg has been giving out and I have had more difficulty walking. It’s become annoying, as you might imagine, and we discussed my taking Ampyra ®. It is designed to improve walking for those living with MS. Anyone out there on this drug? I’m considering taking it so I can go back to enjoying my morning walks, which I love, love to do.
So, will Ampyra help me walk (or run)
more like these guys? If so, I'm in!

We also talk about the importance of exercise and I mention that I haven’t been in the saddle for a while as life got busy, stressful, and there seems no time to enjoy a solid bike ride. He reminds me that now, more than ever, is a great time to continue riding, as it will alleviate stress. Exercise? Good for my MS. I needed the reminder and intend to jump back in the saddle this weekend. Muchas Gracias Doc!

New this year is the discussion about the very important neuropsychological functioning tests I recently took to identify any memory/cognition issues. My experience with this deserves a separate post entirely so stay tuned. I’ll write about the test, the results, and why it is important for folks living with Multiple Sclerosis. Until then.

In the meanwhile, I hope all is well with everyone out there and feel free to leave comments about your experiences during your neurological exams. How are your visits with the doc? Have you been prescribed Ampyra ®? How does it work for you? Has anyone else out there taken the neuropsychological functioning tests? We’d love to hear from you.



P.S.  the main point of the MS physical exam is to always watch out for the following:
  1. Irregular eye movement
  2. Any changes in the way one talks
  3.  Lack of coordination
  4. Sensory disturbances or, lack thereof
  5. Changes in reflexes
  6. Any weakness in arms and legs, including spasticity 
P.P.S. the purpose of the scraping a blunt object along the bottoms of our feet is to test for abnormal response (or, the Babinski reflex), for damage to major nerve pathways. To read more about this and other details of the neuro examination, check out here .


  1. Hi! I just found your blog recently. I have RRMS, no lesions yet though, which I expect is pretty unimpressive. ;-)

    1. Hi there & nice to meet you. Stop by anytime, would love to hear how you're doing. Best, Christie


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