Hip and Knee Pain in Multiple Sclerosis

Nerve and musculoskeletal issues may be to blame

Joint pain is a symptom of MS.
SCIEPRO/Getty Images

Joint pain, specifically in the knees and hips, is very common in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). But unlike diseases that cause degeneration of the cartilage or inflammation in the joints—like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or lupus—knee or hip pain in MS is usually a result of another symptom of the disease, be it nerve- or muscle-related—or both.

Causes

The nerve and musculoskeletal symptoms that characterize MS can indirectly contribute to aching joints and body pains. Causes include:

In addition, if you rely on a cane or walker, this can throw off your gait, which can cause the joints to be sore. For example, when experiencing what's known as the MS hug, you may clutch your side with one hand; after a full day of walking around like this, your knee and hip on one side might be a little sore.

Joint pain is also a common side effect of interferon-based disease-modifying therapies, such as Avonex, Rebif (interferon beta-1a), and Betaseron (interferon beta-1b). Pay special attention to whether or not your joint pain is worse in the 24 to 48 hours following your injections and if it is more concentrated in the knees or hips, as opposed to more generalized.

Diagnosis

In order for your doctor to conclude that your joint pain is due to MS, he or she will rule out any other potential causes, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or an injury. Diagnostic tests may include X-rays and blood tests, as well as a physical exam.

Your doctor may also evaluate your gait and balance, or the degree of spasticity and muscle weakness to see how that may be affecting your joints.

Treatment

Addressing the underlying causes of your joint pain—such as spasticity and muscle weakness—can improve your gait, and, consequently, reduce joint pain.

Another way to improve your gait and reduce associated joint pain is to embark on an exercise program that includes aerobic, resistance, and balance exercises.

You may also want to consider taking up yoga. There is some evidence that yoga can improve balance and functional strength, as well as fatigue and possibly muscle spasticity.

Analgesics, such as acetaminophen, or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen can relieve pain temporarily.

Finally, if you are overweight, losing excess weight may put less stress on your hips and knees.

A physical therapist should be able to evaluate your gait and prescribe exercises to help you strengthen the right muscles. If you use a cane or other assistive device, the physical therapist can check to make sure that it is sized correctly for you and that you are using it correctly.

A Word From Verywell

Joint pain can interfere in leading an active life. Fortunately, once your doctor identifies the reasons for your pain, you can work together on a plan to combat it successfully

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources