Managing MS Pain
No two people experience multiple sclerosis (MS) the same way — a fact that becomes particularly evident when you start to discuss the types of pain the condition can cause.
We asked NewLifeOutlook writers and community members about their experiences with the many different kinds of pain that can plague people living with MS, and how they find relief.
Sharp pain and feelings of pressure and tightness in the torso, often called the ‘MS hug,’ cause serious discomfort for many MSers.
“My worst pain has come from the inappropriately named MS hug,” says NewLifeOutlook writer Libby Selinsky, who suggests the symptom be renamed the ‘MS corset.’
“Seriously, we can’t let this symptom give hugs a bad name anymore!”
The so-called hug is actually the result of spasms in the muscles between your ribs. These spasms can cause feelings of pressure or squeezing, pins and needles-like numbness and tingling, and/or serious pain around the stomach and chest.
Some people experience the hug for short periods of time, but for others the sensation can last for days or even weeks at a time. And for some, the dreaded hug is almost ever-present.
Since MS hug symptoms are caused by nerve damage, standard over-the-counter pain medications do not usually help to relieve the pain. Muscle relaxants may help, so talk to your doctor about your prescription medication options.
NewLifeOutlook community member Leasha Lindley says she experiences the MS hug infrequently, and never knows what triggers it.
“However, I've found that I can breathe through them. In through the nose, out through the mouth! Big, deep breaths!”
She recommends sitting while doing this and trying to remain as calm as possible.
Pennie Gay Kramer suggests Fibromyalgia Relief pills, which can be found at Walgreens and claim to be a 100 percent natural way to manage symptoms of muscle, nerve and tissue pain.
“Miracle pills,” she calls them. “Oh my, it helped so quick. I think it’s the magnesium in them.”
Other options for managing the pain of the MS hug include taking a warm bath, massage and wearing compression garments, which help your nervous system interpret pain or burning sensations as pressure instead.
If you experience any new chest pain or breathing problems, be sure to see your doctor or go to the emergency room.
For other MSers, back pain is the worst — though sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether or not MS is the cause.
A number of things can cause back pain in MS patients, including spasticity (which we’ll cover on its own later) and lack of mobility.
Many NewLifeOutlook community members report severe lower back pain. Kathy Johnston says it doesn’t seem to matter if she’s laying down, sitting or walking — “Too much of anything and I am so stiff I can barely move the next day.”
NewLifeOutlook writer LeeAnne says she’s had serious back pain since before her MS diagnosis over 20 years ago.
“I went to sleep every night laying on an ice pack hoping to alleviate my pain so that I could drift off to sleep,” she says.
Now, LeeAnne finds some relief in massage; her husband massages her every night to ease the pain enough for her to sleep.
Kathy says she has found a chiropractor who does acupuncture and ultrasound, which has helped with her back pain. “Amazing results and has lasted longer than anything I have tried!” she says.
Other options that may provide some relief include propping a pillow behind your back while sitting, massage therapy, taking a warm bath and using a heating pad. It’s also worth making sure you’re using any mobility aids you have correctly.
There certainly seems to be a connection between migraines and MS — over 40 percent of MS patients experience migraine pain, compared to 12 percent of the total population.
Though not all neurologists agree MS can cause migraines, the fact remains that many MSers get them.
A migraine is not just a bad headache. In addition to extreme throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head, migraine symptoms can include light and sound sensitivity, nausea, vomiting and vision problems.