Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) affecting the myelin sheath which insulates nerve cells and is important for the transmission of nerve impulses. This causes the relay of information between the brain and the rest of your body to either slow down or stop and can lead to muscle weakness, difficulty with coordination and balance, vision and speech difficulties, tremors, dizziness, and cognitive difficulties.
Pain is present in about half of all people suffering from multiple sclerosis. It is more common in women. You may experience pain in multiple sclerosis due to immobility, wear and tear, and medication.
Some of the prominent types of pain experienced in multiple sclerosis include:
- Trigeminal neuralgia: Stabbing pain in the face
- Lhermitte’s sign: Brief electric shock-type pain in the back of your head, traveling down your spine when you bend your head forward
- Dysesthesias (MS hug): Aching or burning pain that usually feels like constriction around the legs and feet
- Spastic pains: Muscle spasms or cramps
- Burning, aching, prickling type pain
- Musculoskeletal pain: Due to spasticity, pressure caused by immobility, you struggle to offset problems of gait and balance.
When you present to the clinic with multiple sclerosis-related pain, your doctor will perform tests to rule out other possible causes of pain. You may be prescribed pain medication along with anticonvulsant or antidepressant medication. You are advised to exercise and stretch regularly to relieve your muscular pain. Other forms of pain management such as acupuncture, yoga, hypnosis, meditation and stress management may also be recommended.