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14 natural ways to calm, prevent discomfort of dysesthesia

By Gay Falkowski

When multiple sclerosis lesions disrupt nerves or nerve pathways in your body, you may experience altered sensations such as tingling, “pins and needles”, and numbness. These types of sensations are known as paresthesia. While they can be annoying, they aren’t painful. Abnormal sensations that become intense and/or painful are known as dysesthesia. They may include:
  • Aching or throbbing
  • Skin crawling
  • Burning or stinging
  • Shooting, stabbing, or tearing pain
  • Electrical shock-like sensations
  • Severe itching
  • Tight squeezing around the chest or limbs (MS hug)

While these sensations are unpleasant, they’re not usually dangerous and don’t necessarily require treatment. Sometimes they resolve on their own, only to reappear later. Sometimes they’re continuous. However, if you’re experiencing dysesthesia for the first time you should inform your doctor — in case the new symptom indicates a relapse. If dysesthesia begins to interfere with your day-to-day activities and quality of life, or pain becomes unbearable, you’ll probably want to seek relief. 

Just as your MS is different than other people’s MS, your response to treatments will be unique. It’s very likely you’ll find what works best for you through trial and error. Your doctor can prescribe medications, but natural remedies may also help calm the painful sensations of dysesthesia. Additionally, there are preventative steps you can take to try and keep dysesthesia at bay. Consider these 14 natural options:

1) Wear pressure stockings and/or pressure gloves. These accessories will often convert your sensation of pain to a less uncomfortable feeling of pressure. Basically, you’re tricking your brain. Most drugstores sell pressure stockings and gloves, or you might ask if your doctor will order ones that are right for you.

2) Apply warm or cold compresses to affected areas. Altering body temperature is another way to convert your pain to a different sensation. Experiment with the hot and cold compresses to determine what brings the most relief. 

3) Meditate to lower your sensitivity to uncomfortable sensations.

4) Practice deep breathing. The goal is to summon the relaxation response, which helps offset the affect of painful sensations.

5) Try acupuncture. More clinical trials are needed to prove acupuncture definitely improves MS symptoms. However, there have been studies of people with conditions other than MS who’ve successfully used acupuncture to treat pain. 

6) Use biofeedback. Electrical sensors give you information about your body so you can make small changes to ease pain. For example, you might learn to relax certain muscles or slow your breathing to calm the unpleasant sensations.

7) Apply skin-calming lotions, creams, and washes containing calamine or aloe.

8) Exercise – but not too strenuously. Walking, stretching, yoga, gentle swimming or other activities recommended by a physiotherapist are best. Becoming stronger and more flexible helps manage dysesthesia.

9) Wear loose-fitting, cool, clothing. Cotton clothing and bedding are good choices because the fabric is “breathable” and soft to the touch.

10) Close to bedtime, take a lukewarm bath with Epsom salts and colloidal oats, elements known to soothe the skin.

11) Stay cool. Heat can stimulate sensations and intensify steady pain. If you must go out in hot weather, wear a cooling vest, hat, and scarf. Don’t take very hot baths or showers. Always be aware of your body temperature during exercise. 

 12) Avoid drastic temperature changes. Even something as simple as a sudden blast of cold air from your car’s air conditioner or stepping into a sauna could set off abnormal sensations.

 13) Keep a daily diary of foods and activities. Describe how you’re feeling, along with any new symptoms or symptom flares. Over time, you may be able to identify what triggers your dysesthesia.

 14) Get a good night’s sleep. Fatigue can heighten sensitivity to pain. MS symptoms as well as conditions not related to MS can interfere with sleep. An overnight study done at a sleep clinic will help pinpoint the underlying problems keeping you from resting well.