University of Washington

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

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The scope and nature of pain in persons with multiple sclerosis


Ehde DM, Osborne TL, Hanley MA, Jensen MP, Kraft GH



Publication Info:

Multiple Sclerosis, 12(5):629-38


Much remains unknown about the scope, nature, and impact of pain on the lives of persons with multiple sclerosis (MS). In the present study, 180 community dwelling adults with MS completed a postal survey that included demographic measures, MS disease measures, and several standardized measures of pain, including pain intensity, variability, location, and pain-related interference. Some 66% of the sample reported pain, 25% of whom reported severe pain. Persons with pain reported an average of 6.6 distinct pain sites. Using the Brief Pain Inventory Interference Scale, the average level of overall pain interference was 3.33 (0-10 scale) in the group reporting pain. The highest levels of pain interference were reported for sleep, recreational activities, and work in and outside the home. Persons with pain were more likely to report greater MS disease severity, poorer psychological functioning, and poorer health than persons with MS but not pain. Persons with pain were also less likely to be employed. These findings are consistent with previous research that shows that pain is common in MS, that it is severe in a substantial subset of these individuals and has the potential to negatively impact physical and psychosocial functioning over and above the effects of MS itself.

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