Multiple sclerosis causes many symptoms, including loss of mobility, fatigue, and pain. There are, however, many prescription and natural remedies that can help lessen the effects of the pain.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, often disabling condition that affects the central nervous system (CNS). There, it interrupts the flow of neurological signals between the brain and the body.
Pain is a common symptom of MS. One study found that nearly 63% of survey respondents with MS experienced pain.
This article covers the various ways people can manage MS pain.
Pressure on the body due to immobility, spasticity, or stress can contribute to limb pain. Therapies to stretch and strengthen these muscles can reduce muscle pain.
Muscle pain and immobility in the legs can alter how a person walks. These gait changes can affect the muscles in the legs, which can cause hip and back pain.
Physical therapy and maintaining general activity levels can strengthen the leg muscles, which may reduce pain.
Some people with MS report burning or aching sensations in their arms. Doctors may refer to these sensations as dysesthesia. Gentle exercise and stretching may reduce these symptoms.
Massage therapy can help improve leg function for people with MS.
Massages help lessen pain by reducing tension on pain receptors and stimulating the release of endorphins, chemical signals in the brain that can help to reduce pain.
Massages are also relaxing in nature. They may relieve stress and anxiety, which can significantly impact a person’s quality of life.
Erythromelalgia is a painful MS symptom that affects the feet. The feet may feel tight or swollen and have a burning sensation.
Some remedies for hot feet include:
- wearing pressure socks
- placing a cool or warm compress on the skin
- swimming, if it is possible
- soaking the feet in lukewarm or cool water
- elevating the feet
Learn about remedies for nerve pain in MS, including hot feet here.
Numbness, tingling, or pain in the hands is a common symptom of MS. Symptoms that affect the hands result in less functionality and more difficulty in performing everyday tasks.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society recommends the following exercises to help regain function and strength in them:
Finger flexion and extension
- begin with the palm facing down with the fingers relaxed
- make a fist
- straighten the fingers
Thumb abduction and adduction
- begin with the palm facing toward the body so the thumb is pointing toward the ceiling
- bend the thumb to the palm
- straighten the thumb
Finger abduction and adduction
- begin with the palm facing down, and the fingers relaxed
- spread the fingers apart
- move the fingers back together
Wrist lateral flexion
- begin with the palm facing down
- keeping the arm still, move the hand from side to side
Wrist flexion and extension
- begin with the palm facing up
- keeping the arm still, bend the wrist so that the fingers are pointing toward the ceiling
- return the wrist to its original position with the palm facing up
- bend the wrist in the opposite direction
Knuckle flexion and extension
- hold the arm and hand in a neutral position
- bend the fingers toward the palm, flexing at the knuckle
- straighten the hand back out and repeat
Healthcare professionals may advise people with MS to limit their physical activity to help reduce symptoms such as fatigue. However, light exercises such as yoga and pilates may help manage symptoms.
Yoga and pilates both incorporate movements that stretch and strengthen the body. They are flexible forms of exercise that people can adapt to suit their needs.
Some research suggests that yoga is an effective tool for managing chronic back pain. Practicing yoga can also improve balance and help people living with MS practice movements for everyday life.
A small 12-week study from 2015 evaluated how short-term yoga affects MS symptoms. The results of this study indicated that short-term yoga might improve fatigue, balance, step length, and walking speed.
Learn more about MS and back pain here.
Making some diet and lifestyle changes can also help reduce pain.
A person’s diet can impact their MS symptoms in many ways. Importantly, eating a balanced, nutritious diet can help a person reach and maintain a moderate weight. This can reduce the rate of MS relapses and slow disease progression.
Eating a balanced, nutritionally-rich diet can ensure an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals crucial to overall health. For example,
Vitamin D plays an important role in muscle function and maintenance. It also produces anti-inflammatory effects that can reduce muscle pain.
People can increase vitamin D and calcium consumption by increasing their daily intake of foods high in vitamin D and calcium.
Some of these foods include:
- leafy green vegetables
While certain nutrients may provide different health benefits, eating a balanced, nutrient-dense diet is often the best option for overall good health.
Learn more about the different diets for MS here.
MS and stress
High-stress levels are common in people with MS and may increase pain and other symptoms. As a result, stress management techniques can have a beneficial impact on quality of life.
Activities and actions that can help people manage stress include:
- mindfulness training
- t’ai chi
- slow breathing exercises
The remedies in this article are not primary treatments for MS. People should use these remedies alongside their current treatment programs.
Prescription medications are available to help reduce MS pain.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, a doctor may prescribe one of the following to relieve pain and itching:
- hydroxyzine (Atarax)
- phenytoin (Dilantin)
- amitriptyline (Elavil)
- clonazepam (Klonopin)
- gabapentin (Neurontin)
- nortriptyline (Pamelor or Aventyl)
- carbamazepine (Tegetrol)
Trying over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, may be beneficial.
Learn more about MS medications here.
Acupuncture treatments may also reduce pain. Acupuncture is a technique that people practice in traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture may cause the release of endorphins that might help reduce pain.
A 2022 review concluded that scalp acupuncture could be an effective complementary medicine for treating MS. Researchers found that the practice can help reduce pain, fatigue, and gait impairments.
Many people with MS live with pain. However, many medical and natural treatments are available to help manage symptoms.
Stretching, doing light aerobic exercise, and making lifestyle changes can reduce pain and significantly improve MS symptoms. Improving psychological factors, such as stress and depression, can positively impact MS symptoms.
With the help of a medical professional, people with MS can work on developing a system to manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.
People with MS should consider speaking with their doctor if they experience pain in a new area of the body or if their pain worsens.
Discover more resources for living with MS by downloading Bezzy MS, the free MS app from Healthline Media. This app provides access to expert content on MS and peer support through one-on-one conversations and live group discussions. Download the app for iPhone or Android.