Is MS painless? When I was first diagnosed with MS, it was common for the MS literature to refer to it as a painless disease. I was dealing with a new diagnosis of a disease I did not yet understand and was wondering what else was wrong with me. Articles said MS didn't bring pain, but I was in pain. Many MSers know that feeling.
Now times have changed. MS is recognized as a pain-filled condition even though not everyone feels it. The Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF) tells us about 50% of all MSers experience some pain. WebMD cites a survey of 70,000 that reported 50% were hurting at the time of the survey, but 70% had pain sometimes. The National MS Society tells us 55% have "clinically significant" pain while 48% have chronic pain. Another source offers the prevalence of pain between 13% to 80%, a typical example of imprecise MS information.
Types of Pain in MS
There are two types of pain in MS, Acute and Chronic. Acute pain, also known as Paroxysmal pain, may come on suddenly and go away just as suddenly. It is often repetitive and quite intense, but thankfully, can be quite brief. A pain is considered Chronic after lasting for more than a month. This includes pain caused by spasticity.
But wait. It can't be that simple, and it's not. There's more --
Neuropathic pain is the most common kind of pain in MS. It happens when nerve damage makes the nerves very hyper-sensitive. Sometimes it includes a short circuit in communication of pain signals to the brain caused by demyelination. Usually neuropathic pain feels like an intense burning or shocking sensation. Neuropathic or chronic neurogenic pain may be classified as either acute or chronic.
Musculoskeletal pain may be the same as neuropathic in that signals between the brain and painful area may be misdirected or misinterpreted. It usually involves muscles or joints and may also be classified as acute or chronic.
Besides these, there are also the following:
Internal pain caused by internal symptoms.
Side effects of drugs taken.
“Tertiary” MS pain resulting from falls, bumps, or injections.
Emotional pain may be as simple as just having the blues, loneliness due to isolation, low self esteem, or
Depression that actually involves chemical unbalance.
Each time a new pain is identified, it is important to determine if it is caused by MS or something entirely different and may be easily treated.
In this series of articles, I plan to talk about specific pains, treatments and general pain management. In addition, I plan to emphasize how a positive attitude, even with pain, affects quality of life.
According to The MS International Federation, "Pain in MS is a hidden symptom, but one which can be persistent. Pain can cause much long-term distress and impact severely on quality of life. Self-help may play an important role in pain control, for people who stay active and maintain positive attitudes are often able to reduce the impact of pain on their quality of life."