Posted by: Thixia | August 16, 2008

MS: Controlling Pain 1 of 2



Doctors used to think that MS did not cause pain. Now we know that’s not true! At least half of people with MS have pain because of the condition. Find out more about MS pain and how to get effective relief.


What’s the best treatment for MS pain?



MS is a complex condition that can cause pain in a variety of ways. The two main types of pain caused by MS are nerve pain and musculoskeletal pain. Both types of pain may be either acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). We will learn more about how each type of pain is caused and how this pain can be relieved.


Musculoskeletal pain is stiffness or pain in the muscles, bones, or joints. This type of pain may be caused by muscle spasms (uncontrollable muscle contractions – a symptom of MS), by prolonged sitting or lying due to mobility problems, or by changing the way you move or hold yourself to make up for weakness or coordination problems caused by MS.


Musculoskeletal pain can be treated with a combination of pain relievers (such as ibuprofen) and therapy to correct the source of the pain. When the pain is related to muscle spasms, medications such as baclofen and tizanidine are used to relieve the spasms and, as a result, to help with pain relief. Physiotherapy and stretching can be used to strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and help prevent further injury and pain. Massages may also help by relieving muscle tightness and stiffness.


Nerve pain is caused by MS-related nerve damage. Healthy nerves conduct sensations of pain and touch. When the nerves become damaged, they can transmit abnormal messages, leading to unusual sensations and pain. Nerve pain can include prickling, burning, tingling, or aching sensations. Nerve damage can also turn normal sensations, such as the feeling of fabric touching the skin, into painful ones. There are many different types of nerve pain, including trigeminal neuralgia (sharp, severe pains in the face), Lhermitte’s sign (stabbing pain down the neck and back that happens when you flex your neck), and dysesthesias (painful burning, aching or prickling sensations).


Nerve pain is often treated with anticonvulsants (such as gabapentin, carbamazepine, or phenytoin) or antidepressants (such as amitriptyline, imipramine, or desipramine). These medications are used because they work on the nerves to modify the pain sensations. Pressure stockings or gloves are sometimes used to treat nerve pain. They can help make the pain feel more like pressure.



MS pain: Facts and myths


When it comes to MS pain, how can you separate fact from fiction? Here are a few common facts and myths about pain in MS.


Myth: It’s all in your head! MS doesn’t cause pain.
Fact: It was once believed that MS itself did not cause pain. Now we know that MS pain is very common. In fact, over half of people with MS suffer from pain caused by the condition.


Myth: If the pain is getting worse, then the MS is getting worse too.
Fact: Increasing pain is not necessarily a sign of that your MS is getting worse. A study on MS and pain did not find a relationship between pain and the length of time a person had MS, or the amount of disability caused by MS.


Myth: You should not use opioid pain relievers (such as morphine) because you will become addicted to them.
Fact: Addiction is very rare in people without a history of drug addiction who are using opioids (such as morphine) for pain relief. If strong pain relievers such as opioids are needed to relieve your pain, it is better to use these medications than to leave the pain untreated. Untreated pain can spiral out of control, leading to fear, worsening pain, and limitation of activities.


Myth: All pain is bad.
Fact: Pain evolved to help warn people of injuries and illness. Some pain can be good. For example, the pain of a sprained ankle prevents you from walking on it and causing further injury. This type of pain helps the body avoid further injury or warns it that it needs to heal. Other pain, such as the nerve pain caused by MS, is not helpful, and should be relieved with appropriate therapy.



  1. I was diagnosed with MS in 1994. Went into remission for almost 10 years. And now it seems to be coming back in a different way, I used to have severe headaches and now the pain in mainly in my legs. I will be walking and 1 of my legs will give out without warning. Is there somethnig I can do to get help with Medicine or treatment. I work part time and can’t afford a doctor.

  2. Hi, Baclofen might work. I have talked to a person who wears a leg brace because of the very problem that you are having. It does cost money, but she felt it was better than falling down and breaking her arm again.

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