Comorbidities in Multiple Sclerosis May Influence Pain

People with MS who have comorbidities may be more likely to experience disruptive pain.

INDIANAPOLIS — Multiple sclerosis patients with comorbidities may be at a greater risk of disruptive pain, according to data presented at the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers 2015 Annual Meeting.

Although pain is a concern for all people with MS, comorbidities can affect disease management and may influence pain. Kirsten M. Fiest, PhD, of the University of Manitoba in Canada, and colleagues sought to better understand the relationship between comorbidity and pain in MS patients.

Fiest and colleagues collected data from 949 participants with confirmed MS from July 2010 – March 2011. Participants, who were mostly female (75.2%) and white (85.4%), completed the Health Utilities Index (HUI-Mark III) and a comorbidity questionnaire during three clinic visits over two years. Based on the HUI’s five-point pain scale, participants were divided into two groups: those with and without pain that disrupts normal activities.

At baseline, 41.5% of participants had at least one comorbid condition, with 40.5% reporting prevalence of disruptive pain. Incidence of disruptive pain at years one and two were 12.1 and 12.7 per 100 persons, and baseline effects on pain from peripheral vascular disease, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, IBS, IBD, migraine, COPD, depression, anxiety, hypertension, and high cholesterol were observed at all time points (P<0.006).

On an individual level, significant effects on the presence of worsening pain were seen in patients with bipolar disorder (OR: 3.05 95% CI: 1.32-7.05), lupus (OR: 2.82 95% CI: 1.26-6.29), COPD (OR: 1.50 95% CI: 1.08-2.09), anxiety (OR: 1.49 95% CI: 1.07-2.08), and autoimmune thyroid disease (OR: 1.40 95% CI: 1.00-1.97).

The researchers recommended that further study of the associations between pain and comorbidities in MS may yield better management of the disabling pain symptoms.


  1. Fiest KM et al. Comorbidity Is Associated with Pain in Multiple Sclerosis. Presented at: Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers Annual Meeting 2015; May 27-30, 2015; Indianapolis, IN.