New research into MS pain

Medical research is leading to a better understanding of MS pain and opening up new treatment avenues.

Researchers are putting together a more complete picture of how the body perceives and deals with pain. For example, we now know more about sodium channels, which are "gateways" between the inside and outside of nerve cells. Sodium channels are involved in helping pain signals travel along pathways through the body. If sodium channels are not working properly, inappropriate pain signals may be sent.

Although it was believed that there was only one kind of sodium channel, new studies show there are as many as 10 different kinds. This opens up the possibility of developing new drugs to act on the different sodium channels and help with MS pain. Another interesting area of research is medications that regulate pain by turning genes in nerve cells on or off.

You may have heard about people smoking marijuana to relieve MS pain and symptoms. Is there any evidence that it works, and is it legal? Studies have shown that cannabis oil (which comes from the marijuana plant) and pills of THC (the main active ingredient of marijuana) produce some improvement in pain. However, smoking marijuana is not generally recommended as a medical treatment because it may be even more harmful than smoking cigarettes. But it can be used as a "last resort" for people whose pain cannot be controlled by other means.

In Canada, people with MS can apply for special permission to use marijuana legally for persistent, severe pain related to MS. Your doctor will need to be involved in the process, and you will need to use a government-approved supply of marijuana. To find out more about MS pain control options or research, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

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