Although chronic pain is very common in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), it’s often underrecognized as an important aspect of the disease that needs attention — and treatment.
“At some point during the course of their condition, most people with MS will have chronic pain and probably live with it in some form or another,” says Anna Kratz, PhD, associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor.
Chronic pain in people with MS is varied; people with MS have all different types of chronic pain, whether it’s due to their MS or because of another comorbid illness, says Dr. Kratz.
“Because there are different kinds of pain, we need to be treating according to what kind of pain it is for it to be effective. For a lot of people with multiple sclerosis, the combination of chronic pain and fatigue can really add to a person’s disability in ways that we’re just starting to understand,” Kratz says.
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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).
In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves.
Signs and symptoms of MS vary widely and depend on the amount of nerve damage and which nerves are affected. Some people with severe MS may lose the ability to walk independently or at all, while others may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms.
There’s no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, treatments can help speed recovery from attacks, modify the course of the disease and manage symptoms.