A to Z of MS
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A to Z of MS Complementary and alternative medicine
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) refers to those forms of treatment that are not widely in use in conventional medicine. Research studies show that between a third and a half of people with multiple sclerosis regularly use at least one therapy.
There are a number of CAM therapeutic approaches that are sometimes helpful in the treatment of MS, either in addition to conventional treatments (complementary) or as alternatives to the orthodox approach.
As well as any direct therapeutic benefits, CAM can offer psychological help. When an individual feels that they have lost control of their body and conventional medicine can offer no cure and, in some case, limited help with symptoms, following a therapy from outside the mainstream of medicine can offer a feeling of regaining some sort of control. Even if particular therapies that are tried prove not to be helpful, the process of exploring and experimenting with CAM can have its own benefits.
Other pages will look at specific therapies. Commonly used therapies include:
Finding appropriate therapies
There is a great deal of information about CAM on the internet, although much of this is neither impartial nor reliable. In contrast to conventional medicine, there is not a great deal of published research evidence into different therapies and who might benefit.
If a particular therapy sounds potentially useful, where possible, consult a practitioner who has been recommended by a trustworthy source - a friend, doctor, etc. Always check that a practitioner has appropriate qualifications or is registered with an appropriate regulatory organisation.
Be aware of the cost of treatment and how long it is likely to last. Therapies can be expensive, so it is sensible to know when to stop if no benefit is being obtained. Also, not everything works for everybody. Based on the treatment programme with a therapy, decide in advance how long it is reasonable to try some out and be prepared to recognise if something isn't working.
There is a widespread belief that CAMs must be safe since they are 'natural' but this is not necessarily true. CAMs can have side effects and can interact with conventional therapies, whether being taken for MS or for other conditions. It is important for health professionals to know all the treatments being followed - both conventional and CAM - and that therapist(s) know that the individual has multiple sclerosis.
Esmonde L, Long AF.
Complementary therapy use by persons with multiple sclerosis: benefits and research priorities.
Complementary Therapies In Clinical Practice 2008;14:176-184.