MS pain has several different sources:
- Neurological pain—prickling, burning, or throbbing, due to “short circuiting” of the nerves that carry sensation
- Musculoskeletal pain—aching and stabbing, due to movement “dysfunction”. It is often caused by limping or twisting when limbs don’t move easily
- Spasticity—spasms and muscle tightness, common when nerve pathways don’t function well
Pain is often a frustrating and sometimes difficult symptom because there may be no one simple answer. You CAN manage pain using a multidisciplinary approach. Start by talking to your nurse or physician. Ask for an assessment—to determine the sources of your pain: nerves, muscle and bone, or spasticity.
- Speak with your physician about medications. Medications commonly used for nerve pain are anti-depressants and anti-convulsants. Anti-spasticity medications are available to manage pain secondary to spasticity. Muscle pain usually requires physical therapy.
- Consult a physical or occupational therapist to learn about the ‘mechanics’ of your movements which may contribute to your pain. You may learn stretching and strengthening to improve your mechanics and keep painful areas moving.
- Learning to use assistive equipment (such as a cane or brace) can help correct movement abnormalities and minimize the pain they cause.
- Ask if applications of cold or heat or massage are good for you.
- Regular exercise can be helpful in decreasing pain, but it is important to consult your health care provider to make sure you are not increasing the pain with poor technique.
- Ask about biofeedback, breathing techniques, hypnosis, and meditation to help you manage stubborn pain.
- Surgical procedures can be used for certain kinds of pain but only if other treatments are not effective.
Contributing editors: Staff, Can Do Multiple Sclerosis