As MS is a medical condition that gradually evolves, numbness and tingling are two of the most common symptoms that occur among patients that have to deal with this problem. In some cases, they may be the first symptoms that appear, the ones that cause a person to suspect they may have MS.
Characteristics of numbness and tingling
Numbness is characterized by a loss of sensation in several parts of the body, but this is not the only way in which the condition manifests itself. It’s actually a collection of different sensations, ranging from throbbing, vibrating, severe itching, and even the “pins and needles” sensation which is medically known as paresthesia.
This numbness can be anything from mild to severe, as it sometimes lasts for short periods of time. Some of these sensations may cause just a little discomfort, while others are extremely painful and hand to live with.
Allodynia is another symptom that MS patients may experience, and it is characterized by a pain that’s only experienced when touching objects that don’t normally cause such pain. For example, patients which allodynia can experience pain when grabbing a glass of water. The important thing to remember is that MS patients will feel these sensory disturbances differently.
Both numbness and tingling can occur anywhere in the body. Naturally, these can cause different types of problems, depending on their location. For example, people that experience numbness in their arms can have a hard time lifting up or holding even lighter objects, while numbness in the feet can lead to difficulties in walking.
Numbness in the genital area can lead to different forms of sexual dysfunction, while problems in the mouth region can cause difficulties in speaking. There is another type of sensory disturbance, known as MS hug, which makes the patient feel like certain parts of the body are being squeezed. Depending on the severity of the symptom, this can be extremely painful.
An interesting fact is that sensory disturbances are typically worse during the night. Some MS patients often like to keep their bedroom cool, in order to alleviate the symptoms related to sensory disturbance. Doctor can help by prescribing medication that can ease some of these paresthesia symptoms, so it’s important to note when these symptoms get worse, and especially if they keep the patient up at night.
Managing numbness and tingling through conventional means
As with most other MS-related problems, numbness and tingling are caused by brain damage, or lesions in the spinal cord. They are a consequence of damage in the myelin that surrounds nerve fibers which are normally responsible with carrying sensory information that the brain transmits throughout the body.
There aren’t any medication specifically made to treat these two symptoms, but there are certain ways in which it can be prevented:
- Stress always makes thing worse, and things aren’t any different for people who suffer from MS. Tingling in a sensation that can be triggered by even the slightest form of stress, which makes stress management a lot more important in patients that have to deal with this condition. Stress management is something that almost everyone needs these days, so turning off the brain won’t be an easy task. Short meditation sessions can go a long way, and it helps take the mind off of stressful problems for a brief period of time. Another way to de-stress is to engage in a pleasant activity. If there’s anything that relaxes you, whether it’s watching a movie or painting, don’t hesitate to turn to it.
- Sometimes, numbness and tingling are triggered by something as ordinary as the temperature inside the room. When the body perceives certain temperatures are being “extreme”, it can trigger a tingling sensation. Those of you looking to warm up can wrap themselves in multiple cozy blankets, or put bottles with warm water inside the bed (making sure they are sealed tight, to avoid leaks).
- While there isn’t any medication developed for these precise symptoms, there are still some drugs that can make these sensations more tolerable. Drugs for numbness and tingling are typically the last resort, so doctor will avoid prescribing them unless it’s the only solution. Keep in mind that these drugs can have side effects, so be prepared for this possibility.
Managing numbness and tingling through alternative medicine
Alternative medicine is always questioned by people who are skeptical and demand accurate scientific studies and results that prove these methods works. When it comes to sensory deficits in people that suffer from MS, the most common alternative medicine approaches include:
- Acupuncture is a treatment that implies pricking the skin with needles, as a form of pain alleviation. The tricky thing with acupuncture is that it can stimulate the immune system, which might not be a desirable thing for a person that suffers from an autoimmune disease, such as multiple sclerosis.
- Reflexology is another form of alternative medicine. It’s a massage that involves applying pressure on certain areas of one’s hands and feet, to alleviate and heal pain.
- Sometimes, something as simple as a diet change can do wonder for these symptoms. MS patients can consult with a dietitian in order to determine which are the foods that could enhance these symptoms, and eliminate them from the diet, or replace them with healthier alternatives.
- People that suffer from MS typically have lower levels of vitamin B12 in their bodies. This means that dietary supplements can help with such issues. By performing a blood tests, an MS patients can get accurate information on the B12 levels, and the doctor can further recommend supplements for this problem.
When numbness and tingling are experienced in a mild form, they can oftentimes be ignored. However, there are patients that simply can’t do so, because the pain and the sensory dysfunction caused by these symptoms is affecting their daily activities. Talking to a doctor about these problems and determining which is the best solution to prevent them can go a long way in improving the quality of life for a patient that already has to life with the constant hassle that is multiple sclerosis.