Dysesthesia: 9 Ways to Reduce MS Pain & Abnormal Sensations

Learn about dysesthesia, how long symptoms last and how to begin reducing those abnormal and painful sensations.

Written by MasterHealth Staff

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The word dysesthesia, when broken down, means abnormal (dys-) sensation (-esthesia) within the skin and body most often caused by nerve damage or impaired nerve signal conduction.

 

Dysesthesia can present as burning, itching, tearing, tingling, or feelings of wetness on dry skin. It can also feel like tightness or restriction within the body.

Dysesthesia is neurologic in origin, and is most commonly associated with multiple sclerosis (MS). Oftentimes, dysesthesia in the form of numbness or tingling on any part of the body is reported as one of the first symptoms of MS.

 

These abnormal sensations can range from mildly uncomfortable (comparable to the tingling in your leg when you sit too long) to extremely painful.

 

The following are examples of common forms of dysesthesia in people living with multiple sclerosis.

Tingling in feet and hands is a common form of MS dysesthesia. These sensations are often reported as initial symptoms leading to a MS diagnosis, subsiding within several weeks or months. 

dysesthesia-tingling-in-feet

Unfortunately, because of the subtlety of these tingling sensations which are often reported as similar to the “pins-and-needles” sensations when your leg or arm falls asleep, they can go unnoticed and undiagnosed.

 

This is why it’s extremely important to report any nerve-like symptoms, like tingling, zapping or any electrical sensations to your doctor so that you can start taking the right steps to delay further disease progression.

Also known as allodynia, abnormal or uncomfortable sensations of the skin in response to touch can be described as an uncomfortable or painful sensation, similar to touching a sunburn or being scratched with a sharp object.

 

Skin that hurts to the touch can often be easily disregarded when the sensations are more mild, sometimes leading to a missed diagnosis.

 

Allodynia is most frequently restricted to localized areas of the body, like the forearm or abdomen alone, but can also show up in multiple areas that share a similar nerve.

MS hug is another common form of MS dysesthesia affecting more than 55% of patients. It’s described as a feeling of tightness around the ribs, as though a tight band is wrapped around the chest or stomach on one or both sides.

 

The MS hug can cause pain while breathing and can be brief or more chronic, lasting only seconds to years.

 

When this sensation first shows up for someone, it can often cause increased worry or anxiety that they may be having a more serious health issue. It’s important to remain calm and describe these sensations to your doctor so that they can rule out more life-threatening states.

Lhermitte’s sign is the name for uncomfortable electrical sensations that travel down the spine, sometimes extending into the legs and arms, when someone with MS tucks their chin into their chest. 

 

This sensation only lasts moments and can recur, causing mild discomfort like hitting your “funny bone” to more extreme pain and is relieved when the person lifts their chin back up.

Dysesthesia-lhermitte's-sign

Dysesthesia from MS is most commonly abrupt and resolves within several seconds to minutes. Other times, it may last months or years depending on the level of active inflammation present in a MS lesion.

 

There are ways that you can reduce the duration of your dysesthesia, from targeting the cause to simply calming the flare-up.

Calming MS dysesthesia is similar to calming MS flare-ups in general. This involves reducing the source of excess inflammation, which the Wahls Protocol can help to keep you on track for. This includes:

  1. Getting a good night’s rest. This can go a long way, helping to repair and regenerate your body’s tissues all while reducing inflammation throughout the body. Aim for 8-9 hours of sleep every night, going to sleep before 10pm.

  2. Gentle exercise can help to increase the flow of blood and lymph throughout the body, Lymphatic fluid often contains inflammatory immune cells which can increase irritation if they become stagnant. Try walking, yoga, swimming or gentle stretches.

  3. Reducing stress through mindfulness meditation practices and breathing exercises to bring your nervous system from fight/flight mode back into rest/digest mode.

  4. Eliminating inflammatory foods. This can help to reduce mast cell activation the recruitment of immune cells responsible for fighting allergens) which leads to inflammation in your body, sometimes contributing to skin hypersensitivity.

The following are tools that may help to make symptoms more tolerable but aren’t likely to resolve the systemic inflammation causing the dysesthesia.

  1. Reduce heat exposure. Inflammation can increase as a result of heat, so it’s important to avoid these situations. If you choose to use a sauna, reduce the temperature so that it’s more tolerable and cool off with a luke-warm shower.

  2. Apply a cold or warm compress to the affected area. With cold compresses, you may need to use a cloth barrier to prevent tissue injury from the cold.

  3. Wear loose clothing to avoid irritation of your skin and to allow your skin to breathe. Loose clothing may increase the irritation to the skin as it can be more likely to cause a painful tickle, in which case tight clothing may be a better option.

  4. Wear tight clothing to alter the sensation of pain. This could be in the form of pressurized gloves or compression stockings if the dysesthesia is in the hands or legs.

  5. Use calming lotions like calamine, aloe, or CBD lotions that are legal in your region.

Dysesthesia is a neurological symptom resulting most commonly from MS.

 

These abnormal sensations can range from mildly uncomfortable to extremely painful, and can be relieved using techniques that reduce inflammation in the body and calm hyperactivation of the immune system.

 

To get started on the right foot in setting habits that reduce inflammation, the Wahls Protocol mobile program is a fantastic place to start.

 

You’ll get your own personalized plan with guidance from Dr. Wahls’ best practices, recommendations of the key habits you should include in your daily routine, and suggested starting points for those habits.

 

Within the program, you’ll also find a community of others following the protocol  and a coach to help keep you consistent with your health goals so you can start feeling better, faster!

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