Use It or Lose It?

Posted December 27th, 2012 by

You’ve all heard the phrase “use it or lose it” before.  But should it be applied to patients with chronic, debilitating illnesses?  That’s an ongoing debate in the PatientsLikeMe forums.  Take for example this discussion of cognitive difficulties in our Multiple Sclerosis Forum.

The Four Lobes of the Human Brain

On the one hand, there’s the argument that brain exercises such as word games can help you recover or improve cognitive skills.  For people who like the idea of challenging themselves to stay as sharp as possible, the phrase can be a motivating call-to-action.  Others, however, are bothered by the phrase as they feel it implies that cognitive decline is the patient’s fault.  Or that it makes it seem like “using” can stop the “losing,” which could be misleading in many cases.

Overall, this controversy is one that can help can help friends, family and the public at large be more sensitive to those with cognitive challenges due to their health condition.  “Brain fog” is a common symptom of numerous chronic diseases, including multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia.  While there’s a natural instinct to encourage loved ones, it’s important to remember that every patient’s journey is an individual one, and no amount of “using it” can necessarily prevent cognitive symptoms.

What everyone seems to agree on, however, it that brain games and memory exercises certainly can’t hurt.  What do you think?  Join the discussion in our forum or share your thoughts in the comments section.


4 Comments

  1. I was over drugged and just destroyed my brain. So i slowly got off all unnecessary pills. Found a pain specialist which was my real issue….not all mood, antidepressants, seizure drugs than drugs to counter the side effects of all those..all that from 5 minute conversation with Psychiatrist!
    I did brain games, puzzles, Sudoku , etc every single day and it has helped. I still do them since i am not working or really keeping my brain active.
    So i am strong believer in them and wish others used them too.. I wish most though that bad doctors would stop over prescribing mood drugs etc.

  2. Psychiatrists are pretty useless. I have fibro with all the attendant issues. I was referred to a psychiatrist and within 10 minutes she told me that there was nothing wrong with me. To go home and take care of my house and family that I wasn’t really in pain. ONLY the pain kept me from seriously considereing decking her. Oh, and for someone who had nothing wrong with them,she sure wrote me a handfull of prescriptions. Needless to say, I never went back to her.

    I do word games, skill games, logic puzzles and I do them because I NEED to keep my mind active. I read constantly (sometimes I have to read the same thing several times for it to stick) and “fog” days are tough. I don’t get out of the house much because the pain is debilitating and when I DO force myself I pay for it over the next couple of days. So, I stay current with my computer. But, honestly, there are some days when it’s just not worth chewing through the straps and I pretty much become plant life. But that’s ok too, some days are just harder than others.

  3. With the Multiple Sclerosis the brain fog days are, “it is what it is”, and I just have to do what has to be done to get through it. I am fortunate to have a very good phycologist who is very supportive and understands when I am in an flair and will tell me to go home and be a couch potato for a while longer, that is what my body needs, because I am one that has always pushed through things and kept going no matter what, and that only makes you sicker with MS. I do stay in touch with the world with my computer but I don’t even feel like talking on the phone lots of times. It’s not that I don’t love my friends I don’t have the energy. Taking a bath is a major hurdle. But I was aware of the pitfalls of too many drugs and I take a lot but no pain meds unless I am in trouble. At this point I am Secondary Progressive MS and should not even be walking or still be in my home but should be in assisted living because I am 60 and in a wheelchair full time per the MS Clinic at UNC Chapel Hill so I am a walking miracle with the amount of brain damage I have. They said it was all in the attitude you take. I did all my paperwork to go up there and it was all in order from the time I was Dx. I was impressed with them and they with me. I take no prisoners and keep trying everyday. When I was Dx I was told I should of been in a wheelchair 5 years before and so far I am still not in one except on occasion. Yes I have fallen and yes I have days I can’t think how to spell 3 letter works, that’s what spell check is for but I keep going and serve a Good God. I am very Thankful to do as well as I do. But I never quit trying….and yes, it hurts everyday but I feel WONDERFUL TO BE ALIVE!

  4. I have fibo and CFS and other things like mood disorder and social axiety and yes pain from my back operstion that was a failore . I like other ended up over medicaine. I got off them slowly and went to pain doctor helped a lot. I have fibo fog a lot I do facebook games and puzzlw love to color pictures . doing better take care.

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