More MS news articles for April 2001

Is Your New Symptom Really MS?

Author: Pamela Martin
Published on: March 1, 2001

Several months ago, I developed a pain in my hip.

I'd never had pain with my MS before, so this latest symptom gave me pause. But since I'd read that pain can be associated with multiple sclerosis, I automatically assumed my new problem must be MS-related.

The pain started gradually and worsened a bit each day. You may think it strange of me, but I didn't seek help right away. As far as I was concerned, the pain was just a new MS challenge that I would have to learn to live with. I'd learned to live with vision problems, weakness, fatigue and an assortment of other physical impairments. Therefore, I lumped the pain together with all the other symptoms I'd lived with for years. I tried to just ignore it and continue my daily activities in spite of my increasing discomfort. However, as the weeks progressed and the pain evolved from a moderate ache to severe and stabbing distress, I realized that I needed immediate medical attention.

Perhaps this symptom wasn't MS-related after all.

It turned out that my efforts to self-diagnose were completely wrong. I consider myself an intelligent woman who knows when to see a doctor and when to just care for myself at home. Even so, I fell into the trap of assuming that every new problem that crops up must have been planted by MS. People with MS sometimes feel that since we've been burdened with one ailment, that we are somehow exempt from having another one. After all, it wouldn't be fair to have MS and then suffer from some other illness or disease, would it?

Unfortunately, that mind frame is just wishful thinking. One X-ray, one MRI, two pain meds, and three specialists later, I learned that my latest "MS symptom" was actually pain from two herniated disks in my spine.

According to the book, Living Well With MS: A Guide for Patient, Caregiver, and Family by David L. Carroll and John D. Dorman, M.D.,

"People with MS think differently about their health than those who do not have the disease. Disease-free persons can often afford to push the envelope a bit now and then, to drink a little too much, to keep late hours, to become overweight, to avoid exercise."

The moral here is that people with MS should be mindful of their overall health status, not just the health concerns related to MS. I never thought about the need to take care of my back with proper posture and simple exercise. I never considered myself at risk of back problems because I was so consumed with my MS problems. It never even crossed my mind that my pain wasn't related to multiple sclerosis.

Those of us who live with MS may need to rest more than the general population, to stick to a balanced, nutritious diet, and to care for our entire body. People who are disease-free may be able to get away with haphazard habits, but for those of us with chronic illness, maintaining overall good health can be crucial to the quality of our lives.

For example, it's not a bad idea for a woman with MS to have the regular, recommended gynecological exams, or to see a family practitioner for regular physical check-ups. Your health care professional can advise you of a specific healthcare schedule for your own personal situation. Your doctor may suggest a particular exercise or diet, but have you avoid others. So, it's important to get a professional evaluation before you begin any new diet or exercise.

This experience taught me the importance of "thinking outside the box." Just because a person has MS doesn't mean that the rest of the body should be neglected. The next time I have a symptom, I won't be so tempted to chalk it up to MS. I'll take the time to find out the true source of the problem.