Many people associate the term multiple sclerosis with weakness and motor problems, but not necessarily with pain. And yet, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society reports that almost half of all people with MS suffer from chronic pain.
Oftentimes, it is difficult for people with MS to describe the pain they experience. Sometimes it is like a toothache, other times like a burning pain, and sometimes a very intense sensation of pressure. The pain can affect several areas of the body at one time and often changes for no apparent reason.
So what is the mystery cause behind this unpredictable, changing and often incapacitating pain? WebMD reports that the pain is like an illusion created by the nervous system. Normally the nervous system sends pain signals as a natural defense mechanism when something damaging happens to the body. But in MS, the nerves are too active and they send pain signals for no good reason — they’re firing a pain message in an abnormal way.
MS pain can express itself in many different ways, but here are a few of the more common symptoms:
- Acute sudden pain. This burning, tingling, shooting, or stabbing pain comes and goes rather quickly.
- Trigeminal neuralgia: This feels like dental pain, but is actually pain in the facial area brought on by facial movement such as chewing, yawning, sneezing or brushing one’s teeth.
- Lhermitte’s sign. A brief, stabbing, electric-shock-like sensation that runs from the back of the head down the spine, brought on by bending the neck forward.
- Burning, aching, or “girdling” around the body. This is called dysesthesia by physicians and is sometimes called the MS Hug.
What are ways to cope with the pain?
Some pain may be relieved by anti-inflammatory drugs, massage, and physical therapy. Ice packs and anesthetic creams may help as well. Other tactics to try are deep breathing exercises or creative visualization where one visualizes the pain as an image and then visualizes something to relieve that image of pain. Another option may be distraction from the pain, such as involvement in social activities.
A Live Free Home Health Care caregiver can provide these and other creative techniques to help ease MS pain, allowing for a fulfilling and productive lifestyle. Providing in-home care services in Concord, New Hampshire and the rest of the Lakes region and Central New Hampshire, contact us today to learn more about how we can assist.
For further resources on multiple sclerosis, click here.