It took two years and many doctors to finally receive my MS diagnosis. Frequent painful sensations, such as burning, itching, stabbing, and tingling in my arm and shoulder, led my providers and me on a wild-goose chase in search of other problems. When my speech and balance were affected I finally received an MRI of my brain, rather than my shoulder. I was told that MS didn’t usually cause pain.Painful sensations, known as dysesthesias, are more common in MS than once thought. A 2016 National MS Society Clinical Bulletin titled, “Pain in Multiple Sclerosis,” states, “A recent systematic review of the literature, pooling all studies of pain … indicated information on Multiple Sclerosis pain prevalence rates of 63%.” This type of neuropathic pain is associated with demyelination in the central nervous system. There may not be a structural cause, but the body perceives pain when signals misfire between the brain or spinal cord and one’s extremities. Like an electrical system, the protective coating of the wires (myelin, in our case) is worn away, which causes short-circuits and impulse disruptions.
The Clinical Bulletin explains that dysesthesias appear in two categories:
- Intermittent central neuropathic pain is spontaneous, sudden, violent, and is typically characterized as shooting, stabbing, shock-like, lancinating, crushing or searing.
- Continuous central neuropathic pain is characterized as burning, tingling, aching, throbbing, vice- or band-like.
While the latter is not generally as painful as the intermittent form, it can have a greater impact on a person’s quality of life due to its constant presence. It may be worse at night, with activity or changes in temperature. My fire ants often graduate to bees that sting my arm, chest, and shoulder if I push myself too hard in hot weather. I was giving information on Multiple Sclerosis to add extra medication before outings on hot days. Much like an actual insect sting, it is better to prevent the pain than deal with the aftereffects.Fortunately, there are treatment options. The bulletin points out that, “Dysesthetic pain is difficult to treat fully.” However, I encourage MS patients to keep trying and getting information on Multiple Sclerosis. If we must have ants in our pants and bees in our bonnets, we can bug our healthcare providers until we get some relief! this information on Multiple Sclerosis for patients.