Pain in Women With Relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis and in Healthy Women: A Comparative Study

Pamela Newland


J Neurosci Nurs. 2008;40(5):262-268. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


The purpose of this study was to examine multidimensional aspects of pain in women with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) and in healthy women. A cross-sectional, comparative design was used. The convenience sample included 40 women with RRMS and 40 healthy women. Participants completed the Brief Pain Inventory-Long Form and the McGill Pain Questionnaire-Short Form. The women with RRMS had a significantly higher presence of pain (p = .005), present pain intensity (p = .02), average pain intensity (p = .001), pain interference (p = .0008), and pain in different locations (p =.02) than healthy women. Pain has significant nursing implications for women with RRMS. Women with RRMS could benefit from a comprehensive pain assessment and management strategy. Nursing care should be designed to focus on interventions for minimizing and managing pain in women with RRMS.


Pain is a prevalent and bothersome symptom associated with multiple sclerosis (MS; Archibald et al., 1994; Beiske, Pedersen, Czujko, & Myhr, 2004; Ehde et al., 2003; Howarth, 2002; Kerns, Kassirer, & Otis, 2002; Maloni, 2000; Solaro et al., 2004). In the United States, the incidence of pain related to MS ranges from 53% to 86% (Beiske et al.; Newland, Wipke-Tevis, Williams, Rantz, & Petroski, 2005; Solaro et al.; Svendsen, Jensen, Hansen, & Bach, 2005; Svendsen et al., 2003). Moreover, studies suggest that the prevalence of pain is different in women than in men, with more women reporting pain than men (Fillingim, 2000; Hunter, 2001). The purposes of this comparative, cross-sectional study were to measure the presence of pain and the multidimensional aspects of pain (i.e., intensity, pattern, location, descriptors, and interference) over a 7-day period in women with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) and in healthy women.

MS is a degenerative disease of the central nervous system involving demyelination of neurons (Noseworthy, Lucchinetti, Rodriguez, & Weinshenker, 2000). RRMS is the most common subtype of MS, with a prevalence of 85% (McDonald et al., 2001). Persons with MS often experience variable symptoms, one of which is pain. The presence of pain, present pain intensity, pain descriptors, and pain location have been examined separately in persons with MS and a comparison group (Buchanan, Wang, & Ju, 2002; Newland et al., 2005; Rae-Grant, Eckert, Bartz, & Reed, 1999; Svendsen et al., 2005; Svendsen et al., 2003). Even though women constitute the majority of the MS population, the experience of pain is not well-documented in women with RRMS. In addition, the multidimensional aspects of pain, experienced over a 7-day period, have not been examined in a comparison of women with RRMS and a healthy group of women.


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