When cataloging the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), physicians frequently overlook chronic pain. However, most people with MS will face chronic pain at some point in their condition and learning how to manage that pain plays a vital part in maintaining everyday activities.
Why Does Multiple Sclerosis Cause Pain?
Since MS causes your immune system to attack the protective covering of nerve fibers, called the myelin sheath, many patients’ pain begins with nerve damage. Other symptoms from MS may also cause pain, such as joint pain stemming from fatigue.
What Are the Types of MS Pain?
There are three main types of pain that MS patients experience: neuropathic, musculoskeletal, and spasticity-related pain. Understanding your pain’s cause and type can be the first step in pain management.
Neuropathic pain is the most common pain associated with MS. Neuropathic pain results from lesions on the brain or spinal cord from the progression of MS. It’s considered the most challenging pain to treat.
Symptoms of neuropathic pain include:
- Aching limbs
- Trigeminal neuralgia (sudden and severe pain from the main nerve in the face)
- Lhermitte’s sign (an electric-shock-like feeling down the neck that spreads)
Neuropathic pain can occur suddenly without any identifiable triggers and lead to other symptoms, such as insomnia, fatigue, or depression.
Neuropathic Pain Treatments
Drug treatments for neuropathic pain typically include anticonvulsants or antidepressants given at lower doses to modify how the nervous system reacts to pain.
Non-medical treatments include warm compresses, heating pads, and compression gear, such as socks and tights.
Too much pressure on your bones, joints, and muscles from MS can cause pain throughout your musculoskeletal system, including tendons and ligaments.
The most common locations MS patients experience musculoskeletal pain is in the neck, wrists, and knees. However, it also appears in the back, elbows, shoulders, hips, and ankles.
MS patients may experience musculoskeletal pain from changing their movements to compensate for muscle weakness.
Musculoskeletal Pain Treatments
Often, the best treatment for musculoskeletal pain is physical and occupational therapy. These practices allow patients to strengthen muscles and learn new ways to perform routine tasks, placing less pressure on painful joints.
Other recommended treatments include tai chi, yoga, massage, meditation, and analgesic and over-the-counter pain medicines.
Spasticity refers to the tightening of muscles, sometimes involuntarily and without release. Spasticity can affect movement, cause cramping and stiffness, and produce pain in the spasming muscles and surrounding areas.
MS patients experience spasticity due to slow or interrupted nerve impulses, which cause the muscles to get confusing messages about staying contracted.
Spasticity Pain Treatments
Many doctors prescribe muscle relaxers to treat spasticity pain and, in some severe cases, may treat the affected muscles with Botox injections, as they minimize the tightening of the muscles.
MS patients with spasticity pain also find relief through massage and acupuncture treatments.
Pain associated with Multiple Sclerosis can be underestimated or overlooked. Working with your healthcare provider to find relief for chronic pain associated with MS may vastly improve your daily life.
This post was written by a medical professional at Stemedix Inc. At Stemedix we provide access to Regenerative Medicine for multiple sclerosis, also known as stem cell therapy for multiple sclerosis. Regenerative medicine has the natural potential to help improve symptoms sometimes lost from the progression of many conditions.