Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) for Multiple Sclerosis
Many of us with MS become disillusioned with traditional medicine and therapies, especially if and when we are diagnosed with secondary progressive MS (SPMS) that can’t be treated with disease modifying treatments (DMTs) such as beta interferon.
When I was diagnosed with SPMS a few years ago I couldn’t see the point in carrying on injecting myself once a week with a drug that made me feel worse for five days out of seven when most neurologists agree that DMTs are not affective for SPMS. I stopped treatment immediately but it made me feel vulnerable, like I was giving in to the progression of my condition.
This is when I started fighting back and researching complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to see if there was anything else I could do. I wanted to regain some control over my situation and feel like I was doing something proactive.
Once I started looking into it, I realized how much there was out there that claimed to help symptoms — and in some cases reversed MS altogether! Below are some of the more well-known CAMs.
In acupuncture, invisible lines of energy that run under the surface of the body are stimulated using fine needles. According to Chinese philosophy, the body’s healing response to illnesses can become unbalanced if motivating energy, called qi (pronounced 'chee'), is disrupted, so stimulating this using fine needles can help.
Acupuncture seems to offer short-term benefits for some people. There is little research into the benefits of acupuncture for MS but what there is suggests some improvement in symptoms such as pain, anxiety and fatigue.
Many MSers around the world swear by cannabis as a treatment for spasticity, pain and bladder problems, but it remains a controversial treatment given that in many places it is still illegal even for medicinal use.
The CAMS study, involving 660 participants around the UK, had mixed results for the effects of cannabis on spasticity and other symptoms. Other research suggests some improvements in mobility and neuroprotection, protecting the brain from damage caused by MS.
Sativex is a licenced, cannabis0based mouth spray that can provide relief for people who don’t respond well to standard anti-spasticity medication.