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MS is a complex condition that affects thousands of Australians. While everyone experiences MS differently, pain is a common symptom that, if left untreated, can seriously affect your physical health and mental wellbeing.

By understanding the root cause of different types of MS pain, a healthcare professional can work with you to create a pain management strategy that helps you find relief and get the most out of life.

What does MS pain feel like?

Everyone experiences MS differently. The same is true of MS pain, which can be:

  • acute (is usually short-term but can come back)
  • paroxysmal (sudden attacks)
  • chronic (long-lasting).

If you or someone close to you is experiencing pain, it can be distressing, frustrating and can make it harder to take part in everyday activities. It’s important to remember that the first step to living with less pain is understanding what’s causing it.

MS pain ranges from mild to severe and can affect different parts of the body. It can include:

How can MS cause pain?

MS pain can be linked back to two causes: nerve pain (neuropathic) and pain from tissue damage (nociceptive).

  • Neuropathic pain – relates to damage to the myelin (which protects nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord and nerves). It can cause a range of sensations, such as numbness, crawling, pins and needles and burning. Lhermitte’s sign, optic neuritis and the MS hug are examples of neuropathic pain.
  • Nociceptive or musculoskeletal pain – relates to tissue-related damage, such as in the muscles, ligaments or tendons, as well as the bones. Nociceptive pain can result in muscle tightness or spasticity, or back or hip pain which can affect walking patterns.

You may also experience pain from indirect causes, such as medication, an infection or a health condition that’s not related to MS. Fatigue, heat sensitivity and depression can also make pain worse.

What to do if you're experiencing pain

If you’re experiencing MS pain, don’t ignore the symptoms. Speak to your healthcare team about what you’re experiencing. They can support you to find the best way to manage it so you can find relief. It can also help to speak to your friends, family or colleagues, so they understand what you’re going through.

Pain usually has a root cause and can have a lot of flow-on effects if left untreated. Understanding what causes pain and finding strategies to manage it can empower you to live better and more independently.

There are a range of healthcare practitioners who can help you assess what you’re going through and develop a strategy to live with less pain.

It can help to think about:

  • where and when you feel pain
  • how the pain feels and how it affects you
  • if there are any actions or environmental changes that trigger your pain (e.g., hot weather)
  • if you’ve made any changes to your life or routine, such as a new job or diet
  • how you’ve managed pain or other MS symptoms up until now.

You can also call us on 1800 042 138. Our team are here to listen and guide you.

Managing MS pain

You can go to a GP (general practitioner), neurologist or MS nurse for help managing pain. They may refer you to a pain clinic, which could include a team of health specialists, such as a pain specialist doctor, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist, nurse, social worker or rehabilitation specialist.

A healthcare professional can assess what you’re experiencing and help you find pain management strategies that work for you and your lifestyle.

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