Symptom Series: How to talk about MS pain

A guide to open dialogue with your healthcare provider
Woman discussing MS pain with her doctor

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Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects everyone differently. No two people have the exact same symptoms or experiences with the disease. Since MS affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, you may have a wide range of symptoms. Some are visible and can be seen by others. Others are invisible and are only seen or felt by the person with MS.

Through our MS Symptom Series, we’ll provide some information and tips about different symptoms to discuss with your healthcare team. Remember, your healthcare team should be your primary source for information or any questions.

For some, pain may be mildly uncomfortable. For others, it may be intense. Because of this range of experiences, pain can sometimes be hard to talk about with your healthcare provider. But when it comes to pain, speaking up for yourself is the key. Nobody else can communicate something that you are feeling better than you can. It is important to speak up for yourself so you and your healthcare provider can come up with a care plan that works best for you and your pain.

Tips to help you talk to your healthcare provider about pain:

  • Keep a journal of your pain: Tracking your pain on paper can help you stay on top of the problem and remind you of the specifics when you need to explain how you felt compared to how you feel now

Here are a few helpful tips when describing your pain:

  • Where is the exact spot you feel the pain?
    • For example, “My left hand hurts”
  • Do you always feel the pain, or does it leave and come back?
    • For example, “My left hand only hurts when I wake up in the morning”
  • Does anything make the pain worse?
    • For example, “My left hand hurts more when I write with it”

If you feel pain, it is important to speak to your healthcare provider and be as specific as you can. Being open, honest, and precise about your pain is the first step toward finding ways to care for it.

  • Use as much detail as possible: When and where the pain started, how it feels today, and whether or not any other factors have affected it are all key elements when trying to make the most accurate description of your pain
  • Have an open dialogue with your healthcare provider: The more you have to offer, the more he or she will be able to understand how the pain feels for you and how it affects your life

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