A Yank’s Life with MS: Multiple Sclerosis Pain

Trevis speakingThere may be no greater hidden and personally experienced symptom of multiple sclerosis than pain.

No one can experience it with us, others might not notice it (as they can weakness, speech issues, etc), and there's no obvious injury to which we can point and say, “It hurts because of that.”

For quite some time, even MS specialists failed to accept pain as a symptom of the disease.

A historical symptom

While writing a series about MS history, I came across what is often considered the first medically documented case of MS. In the 1841 description of symptoms of Josephine Paget of Paris, she is noted as crying out “Dogs are gnawing at me!” as she writhed in pain just a week before her death.

For months up to that point, she complained of constricting pains and of the feeling of “a log” resting on different parts of her body.

Nearly 175 years on and I've heard of GPs (and even consultants) refusing to accept that pain can be part of MS.

From pang to piercing

Most painful sensations caused by MS are caused by neuropathy. When nerve fibres are stripped of their myelin insulation, the signals can get short-circuited and the brain interprets them as “pain”.

This type of sensation can range from “burning” and “creeping” to “stabbing” or even “electrical shocks” and beyond. It's very important to be able to explain the type of pain you're experiencing when talking to your medical professional. The MS Society has an excellent pamphlet on pain and other sensory symptoms, which is a must read if you’re experiencing pain.

I've experienced many different kinds of pain due to my MS, and have spoken with scores of those who live with discomfort far beyond what I have had. One in particular is Trigeminal Neuralgia, an acute facial/ jaw pain. When I posted a blog about that sensation a few years ago, I read of many horrible experiences.

Even optic neuritis, which most of us associate with vision problems, can cause great pain to the eyes.

Taking charge

Pain is a recognised symptom of multiple sclerosis. If you run into a doctor who doesn’t believe you, it’s time for a new doctor!

Treatment of pain in MS can be tricky as it doesn’t respond to what we might think of as “traditional” pain medications. There are, however, treatments which can help, and I believe in alternative methods of pain management too (but that’s a subject for another blog).

MS can cause pain – full stop. Pain associated with MS, however, does not have to cause you suffering. Find a good doc and research a treatment that can help you.

Wishing you and your family the best of health.



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