I am in pain. It hurts. It just hurts. It just hurts absolutely everywhere.
Pain really is terribly unpleasant. And it is hard to describe, to put into words just how dreadful it feels. Just how awful it makes you feel. How debilitating, how devastating, and how unbearable it actually is. The Internstional Assosiation for the Study of Pain's widely used definition states: "Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage." It is difficult to calculate the impact that it has on everyday life. It just takes over and is all-consuming.
The pain experienced with MS is often neuropathic pain and is caused by damage or disease affecting any part of the nervous system involved in bodily feelings (the somatosensory system). For people with MS therefore, this Chronic Pain can be another one of those 'invisible symptoms'. And only the person experiencing it can truly know how unbearable it really is. How terrible it makes them feel. This can be emotional and can lead to distress, fear, anger, agony and frustration. This is all rather miserable and can affect your emotional response, affect your mood and therefore your ability to cope and deal with everyday activities. This is exhausting. This can make you grumpy. I know it makes me grumpy. The proverbial 'bear with a sore head', the bear with a sore everything.
Being in pain, to constantly hurt or ache is exhausting. It is almost a torture of sorts. It is unbearable. To constantly and continually be in pain, pain that is relentless and persistent and incessant and painful. When there is no relief. When there is no escape. It gradually wears you down. It gradually wins.
For people with MS the pain they experience isn't that acute pain of stubbing your toe, or stepping on Lego, it is a chronic slow, persistent, lasting, continuous, nagging, irritating pain which is likely to be the result of nerve damage (in either the brain and/or the spinal cord) that might cause a range of sensations, and that may take a variety of sensory forms, such as:
- Squeezing or crushing
- Hot or burning
- Sharp or Dull Sensations
- Like ants under my skin or ‘creepy crawlies’
- Pins and needles
This neuropathic pain may be caused directly by nerve damage, or indirectly, due to other MS symptoms. This is referred to as 'Dysaesthesia' or 'Paraesthesia' (altered sensation).
There are a number of natural pain management techniques.
- Endorphins: these are the body's natural pain relievers, and they can be as strong as many pain relievers. They work by blocking pain signals from ever reaching your brain. Endorphins also help alleviate anxiety, stress, and depression, conditions that often accompany and exacerbate chronic pain. Any activity that gets your blood pumping for a sustained period will release pain-relieving endorphins into your system.
- Friends: those who have regular contact with others, (and with others dealing with similar forms of chronic pain) find that their pain becomes more manageable (see my FRIENDS BLOG). You can laugh with friends, you can cry with friends, you can drink wine or drink tea and eat cake and chocolate and ice-cream with friends.
- Get Outdoors: getting out and getting some fresh air really does do the power of good. 10-15 minutes of sun exposure a day can help the body produce vitamin D. It has been found that people who got the recommended daily 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D experienced less pain than those who didn't.
- Meditation: meditation and relaxation and mindfulness comes in a huge variety of forms, find one that works for you.
- Sleep: it is important to get a healthy restorative amount of sleep, this includes the importance and power of naps.
There are also Alternative Therapies that are thought to help with the management of pain, such a Tai Chi, Yoga, Massage and Acupuncture. And there are Complimentary Therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Distraction Therapy, which are also thought to be helpful.
Pain is unfortunately a factor of MS for a large number of people. The MS Trust quote reports that suggest that 'up to 80% of people with MS may experience pain at some stage'. Different types of pain are managed in different ways. And as with everything with MS, no two are the same. Pain is subjective. Pain is unpleasant. Pain is real. There isn't an answer. There isn't a solution, when you sit there with tears rolling down your cheek. There just isn't. You know your body better than anybody else, you just need to find what it is that works for you.