Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) refers to treatments that are not widely in use in conventional medicine.
There are a number of approaches that are sometimes helpful in the treatment of MS. These can be either in addition to treatments (complementary) or as alternatives to the orthodox approach.
Research studies suggest that between a third and a half of people with multiple sclerosis regularly use at least one therapy. As well as any direct medical benefits, CAM treatments can offer psychological help. You may feel that you have lost control of your body and that conventional medicine can offer no cure or limited help with symptoms. Following a therapy from outside the mainstream can help you feel that you are regaining some sort of control. Even if you try a therapy and it doesn't help, the process of looking for and trying different approaches can have its own benefits.
How do I find appropriate therapies?
There is not a great deal of published research evidence into CAM therapies. There is a great deal of information on the internet. Some of this is very good and allows people to share their own experiences. Some of it is neither impartial nor reliable. It may be using bold claims and testimonials to sell products or therapies of no value.
If you want to try a CAM therapy, where possible, look for a practitioner who has been recommended by someone you trust - such as a friend or doctor. Always check that a practitioner has appropriate qualifications or is registered with a regulatory organisation.
Be aware of the cost of treatment and how long it is likely to last. Some therapies can be expensive, so it is sensible to know when to stop if it doesn't seem to be doing any good
Not everything works for everybody. Decide in advance how long it is reasonable to try something out for and be prepared to stop if it isn't working for you.
There is a belief that CAM approaches must be safe since they are 'natural'. This is not true. All treatments - conventional and CAM - can have side effects and can interact with other medication, supplements or therapies you are taking. It is important for health professionals to know all the treatments you are using and that therapists know that you have multiple sclerosis.
- Complementary Therapies In Clinical Practice 2008;14:176-184. Summary Complementary therapy use by persons with multiple sclerosis: benefits and research priorities.
Last updated: November 2017
Last reviewed: February 2016
This page will be reviewed within three years