Sensory and Motor Symptoms in Multiple Sclerosis

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If you asked your loved ones to list the symptoms they associate with multiple sclerosis (MS), they’d probably say pain or difficulty with walking and balance.

However, if you have been diagnosed with MS and are seeking to manage it, you may have encountered some less familiar sensory and motor symptoms.

Understanding Sensory and Motor Symptoms

If you have MS, you may sometimes experience sensory symptoms such as numbness, tightness, tingling, or burning. There’s also a common MS motor symptom known as spasticity. It involves feelings of stiffness, as well as muscle spasms that you can’t control. Spasticity most frequently involves your lower extremities: you may feel it in the backs of your legs, your hips, or your knees. When spasticity occurs, you may have difficulty bending or straightening your legs, which can make it hard to walk.

What You Can Do About Them

When you are affected by spasticity or sensory symptoms, your first step should be to partner with your health care team. Let them know which symptoms you’re experiencing—even if they’re difficult to describe—because your symptoms can help guide your treatment plan.

Some medications may help relieve these symptoms. For example, Baclofen targets nerves in your spinal cord and acts as a muscle relaxant; Zanaflex (tizanidine) eases muscle spasms and releases tightness in your muscles. Your physician may also refer you to a physical therapist or occupational therapist to help with your symptoms. You may need a cane or other type of aid to help you balance and get around if your symptoms affect your mobility.

Another way you can combat these symptoms is to make stretching a part of your daily routine. Stretching your muscles can help with feelings of tightness and improve your range of motion. You can also try approaches such as massage or applying heat or cold to find what feels best for you and provides the most relief. Talk with your health care team about recommended stretches and other measures that can bring relief.

Key Takeaways

  • If you have MS, you may experience sensory symptoms such as numbness, tightness, tingling, or burning.

  • Spasticity, a common MS motor symptom, involves feelings of stiffness and uncontrollable muscle spasms. It may cause difficulty walking.

  • Let your health care team know about your symptoms—even if they’re difficult to describe.

  • Medications, walking aids, and daily stretching may help.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Jul 5

  1. MS Symptoms. National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

  2. Spasticity. National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

  3. Numbness or Tingling. National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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