Alternative and Complementary Treatment Options for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. With MS, the immune system attacks the protective shell (myelin) of nerve fibers throughout the body. Scar tissue then accumulates around the nerves, which eventually causes nerve damage. Once the nerves are damaged with scar tissue, they cannot receive signals sent from the brain to properly operate. Since the nervous system controls every movement of the body, MS can cause vision issues, movement and muscle control problems, balance issues, and other health complications. The exact cause of multiple sclerosis is not yet clear.
In addition to medications, conventional treatments, and at-home treatments, there are also alternative and complementary treatments for MS.
The benefits of massage include relaxation and a reduction in stress and depression that may occur when living with multiple sclerosis. Massage may also help improve spasticity, which is a common symptom of MS that involves muscle stiffness and involuntary, painful muscle spasms.
Chiropractic care can help with certain symptoms of multiple sclerosis. It involves manipulation of the spine to reduce pain, especially low back pain. It may also help with fatigue.
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific locations of the body to alter the flow of energy. In general, acupuncture may help with fatigue, pain and mood. Acupuncture may also reduce pain and improve spasticity, numbness, and bladder problems associated with multiple sclerosis.
Herbs and supplements
Certain herbs and supplements, such as ginkgo biloba, linoleic acid, and polyunsaturated fatty acids, may help with symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Ginkgo biloba may reduce fatigue and decrease the activity of certain immune cells. Linoleic acid may slightly improve MS symptoms. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, or PUFAs, may reduce the severity and length of MS relapses. It is essential to consult a physician or pharmacist before taking a new herb or supplement to avoid interactions with current medications. Also, herbs and supplements should always be included in a personal medication list.
Some studies show that cannabis, or medical cannabis,reduces chronic pain and spasticity in some cases of multiple sclerosis. It may also slow disease activity. These studies typically involve the FDA-approved forms of synthetic cannabinoid products.
While these alternative therapies may not directly treat MS relapses or its progression, they may make living with MS more manageable and provide some relief of symptoms.