Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, often disabling condition that affects the central nervous system. There, it interrupts the flow of neurological signals between the brain and the body.
Pain is a very common symptom of MS. In fact, one study revealed that nearly 67 percent of survey respondents with MS experienced pain.
This article focuses on natural remedies that people can try at home to help manage their MS pain.
Massage and hot compresses for legs and arms
Studies support the use of massage therapy for treating MS pain.
Pressure on the body as a result of immobility, spasticity, or stress can contribute to pain in the limbs. However, massage therapy can be useful in improving leg function for people with MS.
One study shows that massage therapy treatments can significantly reduce pain in the legs and improve the overall personal health of people with MS.
The researchers set out to determine whether massage therapy impacts leg functionality.
The conclusion is that while massage therapy can improve mobility by reducing pain, these effects are temporary.
Massages help lessen pain by reducing tension on pain receptors and stimulating the release of endorphins.
Massages are also relaxing in nature. They may relieve feelings of stress and anxiety, both of which can significantly impact quality of life.
Walking, if it is possible, is another way to relieve pain in the legs.
Some people with MS report feeling a burning or aching sensation in their arms. Doctors may call these sensations “dysesthesias.” Applying a warm compress to the skin in the area can improve the burning or aching sensation.
How to treat hot feet
A condition that doctors call “erythromelalgia” is a painful MS symptom that affects the feet. The feet may feel tight or swollen as well as 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
Exercises for pain in the hands
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.
People with MS who feel pain or numbness in their hands can try the following exercises to regain function and strength in them:
Finger flexion and extension
- Begin with the palm facing down and 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
Hand and wrist stretches can help treat numbness or tingling.
- Begin with the palm facing up.
- Keeping the arm still, bend the wrist so 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 so the fingers point down and the palm faces away from the body.
A comprehensive list of stretches focusing on specific areas of the body are available from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Light exercise and stretching for back pain
Usually, healthcare providers advise people with MS to limit their physical activity to help reduce symptoms such as fatigue. However, recent research shows that light exercises such as yoga and Pilates may be helpful in managing 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.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, practicing yoga can give people with MS the tools to better manage everyday tasks such as balancing, walking, and sitting.
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 may lead to improvements in fatigue, balance, step length, and walking speed.
Another study, this time from 2013, followed people with MS who took part in a 12-week Pilates program. At the end of the program, the participants reported improvements in their posture and less pain in their shoulders and back.
Managing pain in general
People with MS can manage their pain by doing light physical activities such as swimming, water aerobics, walking, and stretching.
Making some diet and lifestyle changes can also help reduce pain. Studies suggest that there may be an association between vitamin D deficiency and muscle pain. However, more studies are necessary to determine whether taking extra vitamin D can help with MS-related pain.
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:
Lifestyle plays a significant role in managing MS symptoms. Some natural pain remedies listed above focus on lowering stress, which can trigger MS symptoms.
Relaxing activities such as massage and yoga specifically focus on decreasing emotional stress by releasing physical tension within the body.
Other ways to lower stress include meditation, slow breathing exercises, and counseling.
Medication and treatments
Over-the-counter medications can help relieve general MS pain.
The remedies in this article are not primary treatments for MS. These remedies are meant to supplement current treatment programs.
Prescription medications are available to help reduce MS pain. Trying over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, may be beneficial. Ibuprofen is also available for purchase online.
Acupuncture treatments may also reduce pain. Acupuncture is a technique that people practice in traditional Chinese medicine.
It involves inserting very fine needles into the skin at specific points on the body. Some studies suggest that scalp acupuncture may reduce MS pain.
Pain is a reality for many people living with MS. However, there are many medical and natural treatments available to help manage symptoms.
Stretching, doing light aerobic exercise, and making lifestyle changes can all reduce pain and significantly improve MS symptoms. Improving psychological factors such as stress and depression can also 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 who have MS should consider speaking with their doctor if they experience pain in a new area of the body, or if their pain is worsening.