While I’m not going to give specific advice on which complementary and alternative (CAM) approaches to try for your multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms here, the following guidelines and considerations apply to any approach you consider. This goes for those approaches administered by therapists, such as acupuncture, chiropractic or massage therapies, as well as things you might do at home, such as yoga or taking supplements.
While I am very skeptical about extraordinary claims made by some CAM practicioners and proponents, I am also a huge fan of some of the CAM approaches for symptom relief and stress reduction (especially the ones that just plain feel good). Don’t expect a cure and don’t (ever) consider stopping your disease-modifying drugs, but go ahead and give CAM a chance if you are interested and your doctor gives you the green light.
How to Choose a CAM Approach
- Be Cautious: Regard with extreme skepticism and suspicion any therapist or advertisement that claims their approach can “cure” MS. Do not listen to anyone that tells you that you should discontinue or decrease your disease-modifying drugs or other prescription medication, unless it is your neurologist. People that make the most extreme claims about “cures” are often offering things that could potentially be harmful (and are probably very expensive).
- Learn About the Approach: Do your homework before trying anything. This is your body, so it is up to you to:
- Find out as much as you can about why this approach is supposed to work and how effective this approach is expected to be in your situation.
- Find out what the risks are and who should avoid this approach (for instance, some therapies are contraindicated for pregnant women or diabetics).
- Determine how much this will cost, how many sessions are recommended and how much time and effort will be needed on your part.
- Make sure that your therapist has the appropriate credentials and licenses to practice.
- Visit their facility to make sure that you feel comfortable there.
- Ask Your Doctor: This is important, as he may have specific restrictions or recommendations for you to follow, given your health and disability level and the medications that you are taking. It is also possible that he has experience (positive or negative) with patients that have tried this approach, which he can share with you.
- Be Smart: I’ll say it again – don’t discontinue or alter your prescription medication in any way without your doctor’s approval. This cannot be emphasized enough. It is wonderful if you feel better after starting a CAM approach, keep it that way by working with your doctor.
- Before You Start: Ask yourself what your expectations are. Don’t expect miracles, but don’t assume nothing will help you feel better, either. Also, do not get pressured into CAM therapy by anyone, including well-meaning loved ones.