The Chronic Pain of Multiple Sclerosis
Most people with multiple sclerosis experience some sort of chronic pain. Where acute pain is sharp and short lived, chronic pain is with the person most of the time. Sometimes it can vary in intensity and even location, but chronic pain is always with you.
There are many things that can cause chronic pain for a person with multiple sclerosis.
Nerve damage can cause burning, tingling, and the sensation of pins and needles. This phenomenon is called chronic dysesthesias. Typically, this is treated by either the anticonvulsant medication gabapentin (Neurontin) or the antidepressant amitriptyline (Elavil).
Both of these medications modify how the central nervous system reacts to pain. Non-medical interventions include wearing a pressure stocking or glove, applying a warm compress to the skin, or using over-the-counter and pain medications such as acetaminophen.
Muscle spasms or muscle cramps or called flexor spasms, these are common types of pain caused by spasticity. This is typically treated with prescription medications such as baclofen (Lioresal) or tizanidine (Zanaflex). In addition to medication, this type of chronic pain can be treated by regular stretching, proper water intake, and adequate dietary intake of sodium and potassium.
Joint tightness and aching is also caused by the spasticity of multiple sclerosis. This type of chronic pain is ideally treated with light exercise, regular stretching, and prescription strength anti-inflammatory medications.
In many cases, musculoskeletal pain can be caused not so much by multiple sclerosis itself, but by techniques used to compensate for balance problems or problems walking. Also, using mobility devices, such as canes or crutches, incorrectly will cause back pain. People who use a wheelchair regularly may commonly experience back pain due to improper posture in their chair. Physical therapy, massage, and heat are all effective treatments for this type of pain.
In all cases it is important to properly evaluate the source of the pain in order to most effectively treat it.