The 7 Best Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Support Groups of 2020

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First Look

Best Overall: National Multiple Sclerosis Society

"The sheer number and variety of support services available is what makes this organization the best overall."

Best Peer-to-Peer Connection: MS World

"This organization has a very large and active MS forum and chat room where you can connect with others living with MS."

Best for Health and Wellness: Can Do MS

"The resources of Can Do MS address not only the disease, but also its widespread physical, emotional, and spiritual implications."

Best for Friendship: MyMSTeam

"It’s perhaps a good place to start if you are newly diagnosed or looking to foster new friendships."

Best One-on-One Support: Multiple Sclerosis Association of America

"Its toll-free Helpline allows people with MS and their family members, friends, and caregivers to speak with a trained social services specialist or counselor."

Best for Starting Your Own Support Group: MS Focus

"Within this program, individuals living with MS or healthcare professionals can receive various materials and resources to lead their own support groups."

Best for Tracking MS Data: Patients LikeMe

"Data is collected and combined through a series of illustrated, colorful, and easy-to-read graphs and charts, which is available for members."

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of impaired nerve signaling within a person’s brain and spinal cord. The variable symptoms of MS—fatigue, pain, walking difficulties, vision problems, and more—can be socially isolating and interfere with daily functioning.

Support groups are a valuable resource for those living with MS because they connect people with similar experiences, so they do not feel so alone.

Besides providing social companionship, comfort, and a shared bond, support groups can provide coping strategies for managing the day-to-day struggles of living with MS. They can also help strengthen your overall emotional well-being. 

Being able to participate in educational workshops and fundraising and advocacy activities are additional potential benefits of joining one or more support groups for those interested.

Below we have chosen some of the best MS support groups. These communities will hopefully give you the comfort, information, social interaction, and emotional support you deserve as you navigate your unique MS journey.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: National Multiple Sclerosis Society

National Multiple Sclerosis Society

National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Founded in 1946, The National MS Society (NMSS) is a leading and prominent organization in MS research, education, and awareness. Its main mission is to end MS forever. The sheer number and variety of support services available are what make this organization qualify for our best overall support group.

First and foremost, NMSS offers a vast network of free, in-person and virtual support groups located throughout the country. Some of these communities target certain populations, like young adults or African Americans living with MS, with focuses on learning about the condition, coping with challenges, being an advocate, and connecting socially with others.

Another valuable resource of NMSS is its Happy the App emotional support service. With this mobile app, you can receive around-the-clock emotional, compassionate support from a Happy Support Giver, which is a social worker, nurse, peer supporter, or caregiver.

The organization's main mission is to be a listening ear and provide comfort and gentle encouragement whenever you may need it, day or night. Keep in mind—the first two calls on "Happy the App" are free. For subsequent calls, the cost is about $12 per half hour.

NMSS also offers a free, confidential telephone program called MSFriends. This program connects you with trained volunteers who are also living with MS.

Lastly, a unique and valuable resource provided by the NMSS are MS Navigators, which are highly skilled, devoted professionals who work directly with people with MS. MS Navigators can also work with loved ones, family members, and/or caregivers of those living with MS.

In addition to emotional support, MS Navigators assist with logistical issues like insurance, healthcare access, and employment challenges that can create an additional layer of stress for those living with MS. They can also provide guidance on healthy lifestyle strategies, like diet and physical activity.

Best Peer-to-Peer Connection: MS World

MS World

MS World

Launched in 1996, MS World is a patient-run organization that has served over 220,000 members. Its mission is to end the isolation of living with MS, and it promotes the idea of “wellness being a state of the mind,” which emphasizes the healing power of the mind-body connection.

This organization has a very large and active MS forum and chat room where you can connect with others living with MS, as well as loved ones of those with MS, or people who think they may have MS.

MS World has dozens of well-organized subforums that allow members to share their stories or discuss specific MS topics like symptoms, treatments, and assistive devices. There is also a popular subforum for general MS questions and answers.

Additionally, the forum has comforting perks, acting as a wellness center where members can share recipes, books, and movies, and discuss healthy eating habits. Volunteer moderators on the site also review all member posts beforehand, deleting any that are potentially harmful or misleading. They also have the authority to stop or redirect any conversations going in a negative direction.

Best for Health and Wellness: Can Do MS

Can Do MS

Can Do MS

Can Do MS is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1984 by Jimmie Heuga, an Olympic skier who was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 26.

If you are looking to adopt a “big picture” approach to living with MS, this organization may be your best bet. The resources of Can Do MS address not only the disease, but also its widespread physical, emotional, and spiritual implications.

There are two free support and educational workshops offered by this organization. JUMPSTART is a free, one-day workshop that gives people with MS and their support partners education, tips, and tools for managing their disease and overall health and well-being. The workshops, which are offered both in-person and virtually, focus on topics like mood and cognition, navigating the activities of daily life, and healthy eating.

Another option is TAKE CHARGE, which is a free, two-day interactive weekend workshop for young adults living with MS and their support partners. The goal of this retreat is for people with the disease and their friends or family to share their personal experiences, learn how to take control of their MS (as much as possible), and gain valuable knowledge pertaining to issues like working, dating, healthy lifestyle habits, and planning for the future.

Best for Friendship: MyMSTeam

MyMSTeam

MyMSTeam

MyMSTeam is part of MyHealthTeams, an independent, venture capital-backed startup based in San Francisco. Its mission is to connect others living with MS and provide educational and emotional support.

This free social network of nearly 150,000 members is easy to navigate and embraces a warm, compassionate vibe. It’s perhaps a good place to start if you are recently diagnosed or looking to foster new friendships.

On the website, you can find people like you by searching through a directory, which sorts members using various filters, such as the type of MS they have or their symptoms.

Their network also provides a friendly, guided question and answer section. Another cool feature is the activity page, where members can post and share pictures, stories, thoughts, jokes, and inspirational quotes.

An added note—the organization does report that it may partner with a pharmaceutical company or university. MyMSTeam states that it occasionally shares information about members (though it doesn't reveal specifics), which is kept anonymous. MyMSTeam will always let individuals know ahead of time if it's doing so, and does not give these companies access to the actual network.

Best One-on-One Support: Multiple Sclerosis Association of America

Multiple Sclerosis Association of America

Multiple Sclerosis Association of America

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSSA) is a nonprofit organization that aims to improve the lives of those with MS through service and support.

The My MSAA Community is a free online support forum (powered by HeathUnlocked.com) for people living with MS and their loved ones. The forum launched in the summer of 2016 and now has over 5,000 members.

The forum layout is warm, inviting, well-organized, and easy to navigate. Registration is fast and straightforward. Members write a post, and then others can respond with a reply or a "like." You can also search on the forum for members who live near you for a better connection.

Another one of MSSA’s more unique services is its toll-free Helpline, which allows people with MS and their family members, friends, and caregivers to speak with a trained social services specialist or counselor.

Besides providing encouragement and ideas for overcoming various challenges, the specialists may recommend other resources, some related to programs offered by MSSA.

Best for Starting Your Own Support Group: MS Focus

MS Focus

MS Focus

The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation (MSF), known as MS Focus, is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to address the needs of those living with MS and their loved ones through financial and emotional support services, awareness, and educational programs.

MS Focus created a supportive community called the MS Focus Independent Support Group Network. Within this program, individuals living with MS or healthcare professionals can receive various materials and resources through MSF to launch and lead their own support groups.

Besides providing an open, comforting space where people can share their MS journey and struggles, other goals of the support group leader include sharing tips on living well with MS, encouraging positive thinking, and providing up-to-date MS research findings.

To find a support group (not necessarily start one), you can search the online directory for meetings near you. MS Focus also has a Facebook group for folks who prefer online support, which includes discussions about alternative medicine therapy, medications, and pain management. There are moderators for the community, but conversations are free-flowing.

Best for Tracking MS Data: Patients LikeMe

Patients LikeMe

Patients LikeMe

Inspired by Stephen Heywood, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), his brothers founded PatientsLikeMe in 2004. This support community opened up to other patients with chronic health conditions, including MS, in 2011.

What is unique and useful about this MS community is that members can share personal data (i.e. log their MS symptoms or treatments they tried). This data is then collected, combined, and revealed through a series of illustrated, colorful, and easy-to-read graphs and charts, which is available for members.

The data provided by members is voluntary, so HIPAA privacy rules do not apply to the site's user health profiles. Nevertheless, the numbers are robust, and even examined and used by clinicians and researchers as a tool for better understanding the disease.

When registering for this support group, you will first fill out a profile. To make your experience more personal, you can choose to include a picture and share your MS story in a blurb that is visible to others.

How We Chose the Best Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Support Groups

There are many excellent MS support groups available. To choose the best ones, we considered various characteristics such as navigability and accessibility, privacy, and level of emotional and educational support provided. We also took into consideration the professionalism and sophistication of the site to the extent that it impacted the user’s experience.

For example, we chose the National Multiple Sclerosis Society as our best overall pick for its variety of support services and MyMSTeam and MS World for the emotional support and connections provided.

What Are MS Support Groups?

MS support groups are communities of people who come together, either virtually or in-person, to connect and share their experiences and struggles with living with MS. The mission of these communities may vary slightly, but it generally entails sharing resources and coping strategies and providing emotional support and encouragement.

Is an MS Support Group Right for Me?

Living with a chronic, unpredictable disease like MS can be isolating. Participating in a support group is one way to see that you are not alone in your experiences and the challenges you face.

Besides a social connection, a support group can be a pathway for you to learn more about MS. In addition, support groups can be a source of inspiration. Many people find comfort in helping others and sharing their unique MS struggles.

Deciding whether or not to join a support group is a personal choice—and keep in mind, it is not something that is permanent by any means. You can join, leave, and rejoin as you like.

How Are MS Support Groups Structured?

MS support groups are generally structured around one or more common goals—for example, to combat isolation, help form friendships, or provide MS education.

Online and in-person support groups usually have a leader or moderator to help guide the community and keep them on track with the goal or topic in mind (if applicable). With online groups, the moderator may read messages beforehand to ensure they are appropriate and safe.

What Do They Cost?

The vast majority of MS support groups are free, as are their provided educational resources. Some of the organizations do engage in various fundraising activities to support their cause. Therefore, by joining a support group or subscribing to its website, you may receive emails about participating in a fundraising activity or making a monetary donation to the site, so that they can continue to provide resources for free to those with MS. 

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Article Sources
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  3. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. "PatientsLikeMe."