Battered & Beaten: Indirect Pain With MS
Living with Multiple Sclerosis can be a pretty painful existence. Not all, but many people who suffer from the disease experience various forms of pain that the disease forces upon us. While the disease and our damaged nerves are directly responsible for some of the pain we experience, we are also susceptible to indirect pain. Pain not caused directly by MS, but by one of the many other symptoms that we have because of the disease. While maybe not discussed often, it most certainly has an impact on the lives of those fighting MS.
Clumsy? Drunk? Nope, just MS
Let’s face it, this disease makes you appear clumsy. There is a reason why people use that good old expression “I’m not drunk, I just have MS”. It’s not just because we can slur our words but because we tend to bump into things, fall down, and even have trouble walking in a straight line. It looks like a hurricane when I try to make my way through a room some days. I knock things over, I trip, I fall, I drop things, I even look like I lack any coordination at all. I feel like a walking disaster some days! Multiple Sclerosis has a massive impact on our mobility and our coordination, making nearly any activity less than smooth.
I feel like a fell down a mountain
I’ve spoken before how I often notice bruises that show up seemingly out of nowhere. Blemishes on our skin are one thing, but the pain that often comes with them is another. There are consequences from my stumbling and bumbling around the house in the form of pain. Falls in particular are not only rough on the pain front, but also dangerous (I’ve even fallen through a window because of MS, a time that led to cuts to go along with the bruises). Even if I don’t fall, getting through my day without bumping into something or dropping something on myself is a rarity. All of those small incidents add up, and by the next day, I can sometimes feel all of them. I often tell my roommate when I wake up, that I feel like I fell down a mountain, or that I feel battered and beaten up. I’m sore, achy, and in pain, with a lot of it being caused simply by trying to go about my day with my MS symptoms.
Sometimes it’s not even a fall or collision that causes the pain. Instead, it’s when my symptoms cause me to move in an unnatural way. Getting around with MS often involves compensating for a body part that isn't receiving all or some of the signals that it needs from the brain. So we adapt, sometimes without even realizing it, but moving our bodies in an abnormal way. I’ve pulled muscles by trying to overcompensate for a leg that wasn’t moving as it should by putting extra effort and weight on my other leg. It’s not hard to see that when we start moving in ways that aren’t natural and start overcompensating, we’re bound to injure some muscles along the way.
Spasticity is another issue that can bring the pain. While it can cause pain directly, its effects can also cause indirect pain. Involuntary and random spasms and stiffness can leave lingering pain. Any time part of your body suddenly moves and you aren’t expecting it is a chance for an injury - sometimes by bumping into something, but in other ways as well. When you aren’t expecting a movement from one part of your body, the rest of your body isn’t able to properly brace itself, which can lead to muscle injuries. Causing us to unexpectedly move can cause more than contact and muscle injuries, too. I have a big beard these days because I had too many incidents when I had a spasm or tremor while shaving, leading me to constantly slice my face up!
I hope I’ve highlighted that MS can be a physically painful disease, even if you are lucky enough to not suffer from any direct nerve pain. Multiple Sclerosis has a lot of ways to beat you up, sometimes when you don’t even realize it. It’s important to be aware of this, not only to help yourself prevent some of the injuries, but so that you can properly report them to your doctor. Knowing where your pain is coming from is critical. Reporting indirect pain can be important in helping determine strategies to avoid it in the future.
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