We’ve all experienced pain at some point in our lives. It can be a migraine, back pain, stomach pain, etc. In some cases, treating the pain is an easy fix. However, people who experience chronic pain caused by a disease or health condition may not find it as easy to ease the pain. For example, in people with neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD), pain can be a constant—about 80% of all NMOSD patients have it. Patients with NMOSD may experience tingling, burning, or electrical sensation, spasticity (when muscles tighten and resist being stretched), tonic spasms (which are intense muscle contractions that last for a few minutes). If you are experiencing any of these, here are 9 ways to ease the pain.
1. Anti-seizure drugs
Anti-seizure drugs such as Lyrica (pregabalin), Neurontin (gabapentin), Tegretol (carbamazepine) and Tegretol (carbamazepine) work great for relieving for spastic and neuropathic pain. These drugs work by affecting the nerve impulses in the spinal cord to reduce the overactive nerve signaling, Eoin P. Flanagan, M.B., B.Ch., a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. explains.
Doctors can also prescribe anti-depressants like Cymbalta (duloxetine) or Elavil (amitriptyline) to ease neuropathic pain. How do these work?
Doctors aren’t fully sure, however, they believe that anti-depressants can increase neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers in the brain and spinal cord), which may lessen your perception of pain.
RELATED: NMOSD: Life After Diagnosis
3. Numb the pain
Ever gotten a wisdom tooth pulled where they numbed the area before the procedure so that you don’t feel anything. Topical numbing agents like Lidoderm (lidocaine) patches or OTC Capzasin P (capsaicin) cream work the same way.
These agents can stop nerves from sending pain signals to provide some relief from the burning, tingling sensations that NMOSD brings. When using these options, be sure to be extra cautious.
“Lidocaine must be prescribed, and care should be taken with overuse, especially in people with liver, kidney, or heart problems, since some can be absorbed through the skin and can cause side effects, including heart arrhythmias,” warns Elias S. Sotirchos, M.D., an assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.
4. Muscle relaxants
If you have NMOSD, then you’ve probably experienced muscle stiffness. For this, doctors typically recommend muscle relaxants such as Gablofen or Lioresal (baclofen), which come in tablets (usually taken three times a day) or via a pump, which doctors implant permanently in your body.
Although there are no clinical trials to support the use of acupuncture, this temporary fix can provide relief for NMOSD patients and is worth the try.
6. Zap the pain away
Scrambler therapy uses a device that retrains the brain to not feel pain by sending scrambled electrical signals from areas that hurt the most, replacing pain impulses with non-pain ones.
A study found that NMOSD patients were able to cut their discomfort in half after 10 days of Scrambler therapy.
7. Get active
Gentle exercise routines like yoga or tai chi can stretch stiff muscles and help you control the pain.
Need some help? A physical therapist can teach you how to move to avoid wear and tear when spinal cord damage has limited your mobility. Physical therapy is also a great way to speed up your recovery after an attack.
Rehab programs have proven to be successful for NMOSD patients because they can prescribe you the right medications and help you learn skills from cognitive behavior and mindfulness to help you cope—or even reframe or accept the pain.
9. CBD oil
Some patients report that CBD products improved both their spasms and neuropathic pain. Another possibility? Medical marijuana (if it’s legal where you live). However, use caution because using it long-term may bring about cognitive impairment and fatigue.
Experiencing chronic pain can be challenging, but with a bit of trial and error and the proper care, you should be able to ease the pain and live comfortably.