With various factors sometimes limiting the use of multiple sclerosis (MS) treatments, many patients nowadays seek symptom relief in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies. According to a systematic literature review published in the Acta Neurologica Belgica, although these therapies are promising due to their low side effect rates and substantial symptom improvement in several studies, more strict randomized clinical trials are needed for health care providers to use them consistently. 

In a nutshell, MS treatment has 2 main goals; decreasing the rate and severity of relapse and delaying the progression of the disease. The authors analyzed 31 papers published between 1990 and 2020, finding that mindfulness, reflexology, and yoga were the most used for controlling MS symptoms based on the International Classification of Functioning Disability and Health (ICF) model. 

These 3 techniques effectively managed a wide array of MS symptoms, including fatigue, postural balance, anxiety, stress, depression, pain, and neuromuscular function (ie, gait or muscle strength). Conversely, CAM therapies were not shown to improve the cardiovascular function of MS patients. 


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The analysis points out that CAM therapy use is higher among patients with chronic conditions when the response to conventional treatment is inadequate.

Several studies analyzed different CAM methods’ efficacy in improving the overall quality of life. “Symptom management as an essential element of patient care in MS disease can potentially improve [quality of life] and general well-being,” the authors wrote.

CAM therapy currently exhibits a low side effect and acceptable improvement profile, suggesting it would be a plus to doctors’ conventional treatment. “In most of the reviewed papers, conventional and CAM treatment approaches are provided for patients simultaneously,” the authors said.

Although promising, there is still a path to transit regarding CAM therapy. It lacks rigorous clinical trials with more MS patients, details about how these distinct techniques are specifically employed, and the treatment benefit in different MS groups, ie, relapsing-remitting MS and primary progressive MS. 

Reference

Arji G, Rezaeizadeh H, Moghadasi A, Sahraian M, Karimi M, Alizadeh M. Complementary and alternative therapies in multiple sclerosis: A Systematic Literature Classification and analysis. Acta Neurol Belg. Published online January 21, 2022. doi:10.1007/s13760-021-01847-3