Back pain is MS occurring in up to 60% of people with MS. This pain distresses the patient and may interfere with their day-today activities. Though varying in intensity, in most cases it is constant and persistent.
Back pain in MS could be of two principal origins: neurological or musculoskeletal.
Neurological Back Pain
This pain may at times be referred to as neurogenic or central pain. Pain of this nature is caused by the damage that MS causes to the brain, spinal cord and central nerves. Usually there is impaired transmission of nerve impulses along the damaged nerves. This results in interruption and misinterpretation of impulses. The result is pain. In other cases, the damaged nerves usually mistakenly send pain messages to the brain.
Neurological pain usually feels unusual. Commonly one feels tingling, paresthesia (pins and needles), tight bands, burning or stabbing sensations on the back.
Musculoskeletal Back Pain
This pain is also known to as nociceptive pain. It originates from damage or alterations in the structure of the bones, muscles and soft tissues of the back. Many patients with musculoskeletal pain of the back will complain of muscle spasms.
This pain could also result from immobility and inactivity or altered posture. Sometimes the pain may not even be a result of pathology of MS. For instance, lower back pain could be a result of injury when lifting heavy things. It could also be due to a prolapsed vertebral disc.
Depending on the duration of the pain, back pain in MS patients could be chronic or acute.
Chronic Back Pain
This is pain that is called persistent. Chronic back pain goes on for a long time often lasting for more than three month. The patient may, therefore, experience back pain even for years. Chronic back pain in MS usually doesn’t respond very well to treatment. It, therefore, calls for a more extensive pain management plan. Sadly this is the form of pain that most MS patients have.
Acute Back Pain
Unlike chronic back pain, this pain is usually short-lived. It is often as a result of trauma, injury or a short-term illness. It may for instance be due to a fall on the back.
Establishing the type and cause of back pain in MS patients is usually a critical step in managing these patients. It is thus vital to always consult a physician or neurologist about this and other symptoms that may arise in a person with MS.
Back Pain Management Strategies in People with MS
Back pain can be easily managed if it is not severe. However, proper management of severe back pain in a person with MS will require the combined effort of skilled medical professionals. This may include; neurologists, nurses, pain specialists, psychiatrists, occupational and physiotherapists, psychologists, or practitioners of natural therapies.
Back pain can be treated using a number of drugs. The treatment option will vary depending on various factors including the nature of the pain and underlying cause. Single-drug as well as multi-drug therapy options are available.
Regular exercise and stretching often reduce back pain in MS patients. It will additionally decrease fatigue and improve on general well-being of the patient.
Adequate rest and sleep are exceedingly significant when trying to manage back pain.
Alternative pain management strategies may be used to alleviate back pain in MS. This may include procedures such as acupuncture, cognitive behavioral therapy, and psycho-physiological stress and pain management methods such as biofeedback, self-hypnosis and relaxation training.