Pain in multiple sclerosis
MS-related pain comes from two main sources in the body:
Also referred to as neurogenic or central pain, this is caused by MS-related damage to the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Neurological pain can feel unusual – tingling, pins and needles, tight bands, burning and stabbing are common ways to describe this pain.
Also referred to as nociceptive pain, this is caused by damage or changes to the body’s bones, muscles and soft tissues. Examples include pain due to muscle spasms and pain as a result of inactivity or altered posture.
Pain can be chronic, lasting for more than 3 months, or acute, lasting for a shorter period of time. Acute pain is usually related to injury or a short term illness.
There are a number of strategies that can be used to help manage MS pain:
Medications commonly prescribed for MS-related pain fall into five main categories: anti-convulsants, anti-depressants, simple analgesics, strong analgesics, and anti-spasmodics. While medication can help reduce pain, it rarely relieves MS- related pain completely.
Physical activity and exercise
Long periods of rest or inactivity due to pain can lead to a gradual loss of strength and fitness, and difficulty performing day-to-day activities. Regular physical activity and exercise can reverse these effects and help with pain. Physiotherapists and exercise physiologists can assist individuals to develop an exercise regime suited to their needs and ability.
Slow breathing and relaxation techniques
Symptoms of stress can actually make pain worse. Slow breathing or other relaxation exercises can help reduce tension and stress. Listening to music may also help, as can other relaxation and breathing practices such as meditation and yoga.
While pain can be disruptive, setting realistic goals and planning can help many people achieve the things they want to do.
Strategies such as challenging your thinking, problem solving and managing sleep patterns can all help with pain management.
Create a pain management plan
It is important to develop and maintain a pain management plan that takes into account: who can help with pain; what is being done to manage the pain; when these strategies should be reviewed; and what to do in an emergency.
General practitioners (GP) can help people with MS to manage their pain on a daily basis and assist with sudden or severe pain. They can also establish if the pain may be caused by something other than MS. People with MS should also consult their neurologist about any new pain, changes in their pain or unusual sensations.
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Includes information, resources and tips to help you manage pain.
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