Until recently many people including health professionals thought that pain was not a major problem in MS.
There are two main types of pain associated with MS: primary and secondary.
Primary pain is as a direct result of MS damaging the central nervous system. This is called neurogenic pain and includes burning sensations, tingling, optic neuritis (eye pain), spasm, electric shock type feeling and trigeminal neuralgia (facial pain).
With MS pain, normal analgesics (pain killers) have been proved not to give effective relief but other treatments are available.
Secondary pain is caused by ‘knock-on’ effects of MS such as muscular pain.
A drug dose may be built up over time to find the most effective dose while keeping side-effects to a minimum.
It is common for someone with MS to be prescribed anti-epileptic and anti-depressant drugs. This is because they have been found to be effective in the treatment of nerve pain. Both primary and secondary pain may be alleviated by non-drug treatments.
This includes physiotherapy where an exercise plan, specialist equipment or hydrotherapy may be suggested.
An Occupational Therapist can also assist by providing equipment such as splints, different types of seating and assessing daily activities to suggest differing ways of keeping the possibility of exacerbating pain to a minimum.
There is little research evidence for the effectiveness of complimentary therapies and pain relief in MS.
Although many individuals have reported benefits from them including acupuncture and osteopathy, massage and reflexology.
However precaution is needed as for some people these may make symptoms worse.
Some individuals have also commented that cannabis may help allievate pain but at this stage it is still an illegal drug.
Clinical trials are still underway in this area. Pain Clinics can provide both conventional and complimentary therapies.