Up to three quarters of people living with MS experience pain as one of their symptoms. It can be one of the most difficult ’invisible’ symptoms to describe and manage, and can be exhausting, affect mood and the ability to do everyday activities.
Pain can occur at any time, can come from more than one source such as spasticity, stiffness or weakness and can present itself in unusual ways.
There are two broad types of pain associated with MS: Neuropathic Pain and Musculoskeletal Pain.
Neuropathic pain is caused by damage to the nerves that transfer information between the brain and spinal cord to the skin, muscles and other parts of the body. Pain may be described as burning, sharp, pins and needles, and even numbness.
This is usually from muscle and joint pain. With lack of movement, muscles and joints can become stiff and seize up. They often shorten and for some, can develop contractures which leads to pain.
Dealing with Pain
Medication – Taking painkillers prescribed by your doctor can help alleviate the pain. There are specific painkillers to ease neuropathic pains, and therefore an accurate description of your pain can help with determining the right medication for you.
Physiotherapy – This is key to reducing stiffness, improving muscle strength and posture, which is often a big source of musculoskeletal pain.
Psychological therapies – Talking therapy helps hugely with chronic pain. Speaking to psychologists and counsellors and learning techniques to overcome pain at its worst has proven to help. Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy are a few of many methods, and often work in conjunction with physiotherapy and taking the right painkillers to help manage pain.
written by Hily Perpinyal, Clinical Director