Pain is a significant symptom for more than half of individuals with MS. Within this population, pain falls under two different categories.
Referred to as neurogenic, the first type of pain can be a direct result of damage to the nerves of the central nervous system. With this type of pain, nerve impulses can go off-track or become over-stimulated and misfire, causing pain that can be lightning-like and intermittent, or can be a steadier burning, tingling, or tightening sensation.
Referred to as nociceptive, the second type of pain is associated with living with disability and its effects. This type of pain is caused by any mechanism that stimulates a pain response. Examples include muscle and joint pain, injection-site reactions, and pain related to urinary-tract infection, among several other causes.
Pain in MS is treated in a variety of ways, depending on the type and cause of the pain. Pharmaceutical management can include anti-seizure, anti-spasticity, anti-anxiety, antidepressant, and anti-pain medications. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies such as acupuncture, acupressure, guided imagery, biofeedback, yoga, and tai chi may also help to relieve pain associated with MS.
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Updated in October 2023 by Dr. Barry Hendin, MSAA Chief Medical Officer
Original content by Heidi W. Maloni, PhD, ANP-BC, CNRN, MSCN