Word About Complementary Medicine

There is a lot of talk about "alternative" or "complementary" medicine as many people seek answers to the unanswerable. MS is a disease in which most people actually do well even if they do not expect to. This means that no matter what treatment one takes, a good result is likely. However, it may not be the result of the treatment, but rather of the natural history of the disease.

All of us have heard of miracle cures attributed to bee stings, lightning, cobra venom, hyperimmune cow's milk, magnets, hyper-baric oxygen, vitamins, food supplements, special shoes, calcium treatments, and other similar strategies. None of these treatments have undergone research studies that support their use. All rely solely on testimonials. Gullibility does not come with MS but it often comes with being human.

Several questions should be asked of a proposed treatment:

• Has a properly performed research study demonstrated positive results?

• Has that study been repeated in some fashion?

• Is one person or a small company making a large profit from the treatment?

• Is the treatment rational or is it "pie in the sky?"

Even if a treatment appears ridiculous, some people will swear by it. That is human nature and will persist despite significant advances in modern medical science. There always will be people who are willing to forsake science for quackery.

Having said that, there are many treatments that are not "medical" but that may have some effect on the management of some symptoms of MS. Many of these are mentioned in later chapters and include biofeedback, meditation, relaxation, acupuncture for pain, chiropractic for back pain, and others. The appropriate use of these modalities may be helpful and should not be discouraged. A good basic guide is Alternative Medicine and Multiple Sclerosis by Dr. Allen Bowling.

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