If you have MS, you know that sometimes your top job is to fight back against pain. There are lots of ways to do this, and it doesn’t always mean popping a pill.
“We often start with non-medication approaches,” says neurologist Alexander Rae-Grant, MD.
Try these drug-free tactics first to keep pain from busting into your day.
Exercise. It may not sound logical, but regular physical activity can help. It eases aches in your neck, back, and muscles, Rae-Grant says, and it makes you sleep better, too.
Start slowly and work with a trainer. Some people with MS say that yoga, tai chi, swimming, and water aerobics are good choices for pain relief.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It may not make your aches go away completely, but you’ll practice new habits that help you manage things better. You’ll work with a therapist who teaches you how to change the way you think and feel about your pain. You’ll also learn relaxation techniques like meditation, visualization, and breathing exercises.
Biofeedback. If you’re looking for a way to train your mind to manage pain, you might want to give this method a try. A specialist connects you to electric sensors that give you readouts on your temperature, breathing rate, and brainwaves. This makes you more aware of your body and gives you a feeling of control over your aches.
Pressure or heat. Your doctor may tell you to wear a pressure stocking or glove to help ease your pain. A heating pad can also bring you relief.
Acupuncture. In this traditional Chinese treatment, a professional puts needles into different places on your body. There haven’t been many studies about using this method for MS pain, but it’s an option worth checking out, Rae-Grant says.
Medications to Treat Your Pain
Here are some choices you can consider.
Over-the-counter drugs. There’s a lot of relief you can get just by going to your neighborhood drugstore. Look for painkillers like acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
Anti-seizure medication. It’s a good option to fight searing nerve pain, which you might get in your face, neck, spine, or inside the eye.
These meds also treat a specific pain called the “MS hug,” a tight, squeezing feeling around your chest or stomach. But there can be side effects. They may make you feel dizzy or sleepy.
Antidepressants. They’re another way for you to treat “MS hug” and nerve pain. Your doctor may have to slowly increase your dose over time, Rae-Grant says.
Watch out for side effects like weight gain, dry mouth, or swelling in your arms and legs.
Muscle relaxants. These reduce spasms that make you sore and achy.
Medical marijuana. It might be an option for you if it’s legal in your state and your doctor recommends it. Some studies show it treats pain from muscle spasms.
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