Pain in patients with multiple sclerosis: a complex assessment including quantitative and qualitative measurements provides for a disease-related biopsychosocial pain model

J Pain Res. 2011;4:219-25. doi: 10.2147/JPR.S20309. Epub 2011 Aug 2.


Background: Pain of various causes is a common phenomenon in patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). A biopsychosocial perspective has proven a useful theoretical construct in other chronic pain conditions and was also started in MS. To support such an approach, we aimed to investigate pain in MS with special emphasis on separating quantitative and qualitative aspects, and its interrelation to behavioral and physical aspects.

Materials and methods: Pain intensity (NRS) and quality (SES) were measured in 38 consecutive outpatients with MS (mean age, 42.0 ± 11.5 years, 82% women). Pain-related behavior (FSR), health care utilization, bodily complaints (GBB-24) and fatigue (WEIMuS) were assessed by questionnaires, and MS-related neurological impairment by a standardized neurological examination (EDSS).

Results: Mean pain intensity was 4.0 (range, 0-10) and mean EDSS 3.7 (range, 0-8) in the overall sample. Currently present pain was reported by 81.6% of all patients. Disease duration and EDSS did not differ between patients with and without pain and were not correlated to quality or intensity of pain. Patients with pain had significantly higher scores of musculoskeletal complaints, but equal scores of exhaustion, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular complaints. Pain intensity correlated only with physical aspects, whereas quality of pain was additionally associated with increased avoidance, resignation and cognitive fatigue.

Conclusion: As in other conditions, pain in MS must be assessed in a multidimensional way. Further research should be devoted to adapt existing models to a MS-specific model of pain.

Keywords: bodily complaints; multiple sclerosis; pain intensity; pain-related behavior; quality of pain.