The development of therapeutic strategies that promote functional recovery is a major goal of multiple sclerosis (MS) research. Neuroscientific and methodological advances have improved our understanding of the brain's recovery from damage, generating novel hypotheses about potential targets and modes of intervention, and laying the foundation for development of scientifically informed recovery-promoting strategies in interventional studies. This Review aims to encourage the transition from characterization of recovery mechanisms to development of strategies that promote recovery in MS. We discuss current evidence for functional reorganization that underlies recovery and its implications for development of new recovery-oriented strategies in MS. Promotion of functional recovery requires an improved understanding of recovery mechanisms that can be modulated by interventions and the development of robust measurements of therapeutic effects. As imaging methods can be used to measure functional and structural alterations associated with recovery, this Review discusses their use to obtain reliable markers of the effects of interventions.