Cramping, pain, and fatigue can all come with MS, but certain types of neck pain can help doctors zero in on a diagnosis.
Problems with balance and mobility, fatigue, vision, and even bladder control are common in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), but pain can be an issue, too.
About half of all people with MS report having significant pain related to their disease, and these pain types can range from direct pain caused by lesions in the nervous system to indirect pain from the misfiring of damaged neurons.
The neck can be a common location of pain in people with MS for a number of reasons. Read on to learn more about neck pain and MS, including tips for finding relief.
As a disease of the central nervous system, the neck is a hot spot for MS pain because it’s where many of your central nervous system signals travel from your brain down the spinal cord to the rest of your body.
Additionally, the stress of immobility or movement problems can contribute to strains, spasms, and other pain in your back and neck.
Neck symptoms that are common in MS, either from nerve damage, decreased mobility, or other disease-specific processes, include things like:
There are also a few specific types of neck pain that can sometimes help a doctor to make an initial MS diagnosis.
Lhermitte’s sign is a sharp, stabbing, electricity-like sensation that runs from the back of the head down the spine. This feeling is triggered in people with MS when the neck is flexed.
The pain is caused by lesions on the cervical spine, an area of the spinal cord located at the neck. The flexion movement of this area causes the lesions to trigger painful reactions in damaged nerve cells.
This is another neck-related symptom that, in some situations, can be used to help make a diagnosis of MS. McArdle’s sign was identified 30 years ago as a distinctive form of muscle weakness that affects people with spinal cord diseases.
In 2019, researchers found that when neck flexion resulted in at least a 10% loss in strength, it could be used to help diagnose MS and differentiate it from conditions with similar symptoms. Neck flexion refers to the bending of your neck forward toward your chest.
While there’s no cure for MS, there are options for reducing neck pain and stiffness.
Your healthcare team may prescribe medication based on your specific symptoms and overall condition. Some medications that are often used to treat sharp nerve pains, spasms, and other neck discomforts that can arise from MS include:
- botulinum toxin
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
You may also take note that some of the above-mentioned medications may be prescribed off-label, so keep that in mind when discussing it with your doctor.
- cold packs
- physical therapy
- compression or pressure devices
- support and positioning aids
In many cases of MS, a multifaceted approach to pain management is most beneficial. This may include medications, as well as natural remedies or exercises, and even surgical procedures.
If you’ve been experiencing neck pain that’s not getting better or is getting worse, or if it’s impacting your daily life, see a doctor. You should also discuss any new pain or stiffness with your doctor if you’ve already been diagnosed with MS.
There are a number of treatments that can help you manage your symptoms or even help to slow the progression of the disease.
There are many conditions, injuries, and even everyday activities that can cause neck pain or soreness. However, there are several specific types of neck pains or problems that develop with MS. Some of these pains cans even be used to help diagnose MS or rule out other similar conditions.
Be sure to talk with your doctor if you develop neck pain that comes with muscle weakness, vision changes, or other serious symptoms throughout your body.