More than half of those with multiple sclerosis (MS) find that pain is a problem. Pain appears to result from “short circuits” in the pathways that carry sensory impulses between the brain and spinal cord. It is not a predictor of the course of MS. Pain can be broken into 2 categories: acute and chronic.
In general, acute pain is sudden, and chronic pain lasts longer than 3 to 6 months. It may last just for a moment or go on for weeks. Chronic pain is persistent, and the pain signals in the body can remain active for much longer.
Some types of acute and chronic pain related to MS are:
Trigeminal neuralgia is a stabbing pain in the face. It can occur as an initial symptom of MS. It can be confused with dental pain. However, this pain is due to nerves, not cavities.
L’hermitte’s sign is a brief, stabbing, electric shock-like sensation that runs from the back of the head down the arms or spine. It can be brought on by bending the neck forward. It can be a signal of a lesion in the upper region of the spinal cord.
Dysesthesia is an unpleasant sensation, typically described as burning, which can be evoked or spontaneous.
- Burning, aching, prickling, or "pins and needles"
- Pain of spasticity, such as tightness or aching in joints, and muscle spasms or cramps—called flexor spasms—may occur
- Back and other musculoskeletal pain, especially lower back pain, can have many causes. They include:
- Pressure on the body caused by immobility
- Incorrect use of mobility aids
- Poor walking posture, unusual walking pattern, and balance problems
Dealing With MS Pain Symptoms
Pain is a symptom of MS, but you do not have to simply accept it. You should talk to your healthcare provider about pain. An evaluation to pinpoint the source of the pain is essential. Fortunately, there are a number of medications that can help. Speak to your healthcare provider for more information.
Nonmedication treatments may also help and might include exercise, heat, massage, ultrasound, and physical therapy. In addition, biofeedback, meditation, and similar techniques may also be helpful. Again, talk to your healthcare provider about what might be right for you.
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