When we talk about pain and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), the connection between the two is a little complicated. Much of the attention is put on the emotional pain that comes with the disease and there’s good reason for that.
The prognosis for individuals diagnosed with ALS is poor and this can lead to emotionally painful issues such as anxiety and depression.
What is less talked about is physical pain and particularly whether or not it can be caused by ALS.
Here we take a closer look at the connection between physical pain and ALS along with ways to manage it.
ALS damages and then kills the nerves that send messages to our muscles. For most people, that means a gradual weakening of the muscles and loss of strength.
Direct pain in ALS is not common. In other words, it doesn’t hurt as the nerves begin to die. But it’s important to be aware that pain can be caused by issues associated with the disease, such as lack of joint mobility and muscle cramping.
When looking at pain and ALS, it’s important to understand that loss of functioning in the muscles and other parts of the body can have numerous effects.
Common issues experienced by ALS patients include:
Pain and discomfort generally become more prevalent as the disease progresses. Difficulty breathing can be extremely challenging for patients and medical interventions such as putting in a feeding tube can also cause secondary pain issues.
As this is a progressive disease, ALS pain management will need to evolve as the individual’s condition changes. The good news is that most of the issues associated with ALS that cause pain can be dealt with effectively and there are numerous ways to manage them.
It’s important to understand, however, that everyone is different. ALS does not progress along a standard path and a pain management routine has to be both preventative and reactive to the needs of the individual.
Preventative measures will include mobilizing joints and undertaking stretching exercises to ensure spasticity and cramping is minimized.
Keeping exercise as part of a daily routine as long as possible can have a significant positive impact on the individual living with ALS. Paying attention to issues such as posture and the equipment that is used to support the individual will also make a huge difference.
Pain and joint issues are more likely to occur in the later stages of ALS. According to research, 74% of those in the final stages of the disease will require some form of pain medication.
Whilst ALS does not cause pain per se, it often occurs as a secondary symptom because of problems such as lack of joint movement, stress on the body and muscle spasticity. ALS pain management is personal to the individual, but there are many options and solutions that the patient can consider to alleviate pain caused as a result of their condition,