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Managing Multiple Sclerosis Pain: Lifestyle Changes Make a Difference

How MS Patients Can Positively Impact Their Pain, Manage Symptoms

Substantial evidence suggests that lifestyle factors can be of significant benefit in the management of symptoms, including pain, resulting from multiple sclerosis (MS). A recent study appearing in the journal Frontiers of Neurology adds further weight to this consensus, finding that regular exercise, smoking cessation, and diet modification were associated with reduced levels of pain in patients with MS. Study author Claudia Marck, PhD, School of Population Health at University of Melbourne, Australia, summarized, "Our study found strong associations between lifestyle and pain in people with multiple sclerosis. We also see strong links between pain and the prevalence of anxiety and depression."

The research team conducted a worldwide survey of over 2,500 patients with MS, tracking symptoms, social demographics, and lifestyle patterns. Smokers were more than 2 times as likely to report substantial pain than nonsmokers, and the findings noted the presence of a “detrimental feedback loop” in which smoking may initially dull pain sensations, and cessation can initially increase pain sensitivity. Exercise was also linked to reduced pain, and the team hypothesizes that the neuroprotective and neurodegenerative effects of exercise may combat the loss of protective myelin coating that occurs in MS patients. Dr. Marck also noted that increased physical activity can increase the pain threshold and reduce the experience of pain. While not claiming a causal connection, she points to these findings and other existing evidence suggesting that patients with MS try exercise, smoking cessation, and adopt a healthy diet in the effort to better manage their pain. 

Read more about the findings and recommendations.

The journal article may be read here.

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