MS is a chronic neurologic, immune-mediated disease affecting the central nervous system including the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Currently there are eight FDA approved medications to treat the disease that have been rigorously tested, monitored for safety, and are closely regulated. However, these medications have their limitations; they are not cures, they do not treat symptoms, are expensive and have potential side effects. Therefore, many individuals living with MS may seek additional therapeutic modalities either to complement their current regimen or seek alternative treatments. There are a variety of alternative therapies, which unlike conventional medicine may not be scientifically tested or regulated. While many CAM interventions may improve quality of life, and provide symptom relief, others are very costly and may purport to “cure” or significantly impact MS with little, if any, scientific evidence.
Fortunately, there are many interventions that may be recommended in complement to existing therapies and interventions (physical therapy, occupational therapy, etc.) by a healthcare provider (HCP) such as regular exercise (yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi), healthy eating, acupuncture, massage, aqua-therapy, and biofeedback. It is important to discuss all options (complementary or alternative agents) with your MS specialty healthcare provider to determine what may be helpful or harmful in treating MS. It is important to disclose all treatments even those prescribed by your primary care provider and other specialty HCPs that may include herbs, vitamins, minerals, supplements, antioxidants, tinctures, topical treatments, homeopathic or Oriental medical treatments, as well as other therapeutic regimens. Additionally, it is just as important to disclose other non-prescribed therapies such as recreational drug use, and experimental therapies (“liberation treatment” stem cell transplants, bee sting venom therapy, procarin, etc). These discussions and communication with a MS specialist is necessary to prevent any potential drug interactions with your
current regimen but also to assess accurately any changes in your status that could be a result of additional therapeutic regimens. You can learn more about CAM in MS in resources that are recommended in the MS specialty community. These include “Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Multiple Sclerosis” by Allen Bowling MD, PhD., and the website “Alternative Medicine Website” www.ms-cam.org.