Need to Know: Can a Chiropractor Treat MS?

Need to Know: Can a Chiropractor Treat MS?

Editor’s note: “Need to Know” is a series inspired by common forum questions and comments from readers. Have a comment or question about MS? Visit our forum. This week’s question is inspired by the forum topic, “How Chiropractic Therapy Can Help Multiple Sclerosis Patients,” from June 1, 2018.

Even when people with multiple sclerosis (MS) have the use of their limbs — and many do, at least part of the time — pain and joint mobility restrictions can prevent participation in some of summer’s less strenuous recreational activities, such as hiking, kayaking, swimming, and golf.

Additionally, people with MS often deal with other autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease. These conditions also cause discomfort and pain — more reasons to skip that short game of bocce ball at the park.

However, to live well with MS, we need regular exercise and, with any luck, playtime outdoors in the summer.

How do people with MS mitigate the desire to exercise in the face of omnipresent pain and discomfort?

It can be challenging to find pharmaceutical options for relief given recent crackdowns on pain medications. Even if you find a treatment that works, we may not want to take yet another pill. An overload of meds (also known as polypharmacy) can result in damage to the liver and kidneys.

Some look to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to manage discomfort, and this host of holistic practices includes chiropractic care.

Can a visit to the chiropractor be your ticket to pain management when you have MS?

What is chiropractic care?

This form of alternative medicine treats disorders of the spine and joints — connectors of bones in the skeleton.

  • Some joints (fibrous) don’t move at all, including the joints between bones in the skull, which are interlocked.
  • Cartilaginous joints include partially moveable intersections, such as those found between the vertebrae in the spine.
  • Synovial joints are the joints with which we’re most familiar, and that move freely, including knee joints.

Chiropractic care focuses on the latter two types of joints. Practitioners deliver therapy that involves a mechanical adjustment to misaligned joints aimed at reducing inflammation and improving function.

How chiropractic care can help MS pain and dysfunction

Keep in mind: inflammation is an ongoing problem for people with MS. Additional pain and swelling in our joints can further disrupt the mobility of legs, arms, fingers, and toes.

Thanks to MS, the nerves serving the skeletal muscles around these joints may spasm, furthering hampering our movement control in these bony intersections.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS), chiropractic is based on the assumption that “vertebrae that are not in alignment apply pressure to nearby nerves; this pressure causes pain and/or dysfunction in the organs or muscles that are served by those nerves.”

The NMSS acknowledges that evidence showing that chiropractic care can provide symptom relief in people with MS is limited to anecdotal research.

The Blair chiropractic technique may be useful. This method focuses on the upper cervical vertebrae — the atlas and the axis — found in the neck area between the brainstem and the neural canal.

Chiropractic care in MS research

There’s little science to suggest that chiropractic interventions can help people with MS.

However, a recent study involving a case of a man with drop foot caused by peroneal neuralgia — which is also an MS symptom caused by dysfunction of the peroneal nerve — shows a glimmer of promise.

The possibility of using chiropractic care in concert with physical therapy to treat this frustrating symptom — or other problems with mobility and pain in people with MS — may spark future CAM research.

For those looking for medication-free options, there’s a reason for hope, though we’ll have to wait for further studies.

Is chiropractic care for everybody?

While chiropractic therapy won’t cure MS, it could provide pain relief and ease of movement.

Realigned joints can make it easier to walk, grasp objects, and maintain a healthy posture. You need all of these movements to perform the activities of daily living, as well as participate in easy recreational activities. (Bocce ball, anyone?)

As with any form of CAM, chiropractic has both risks and benefits. You should consult your MS specialist about your options.

While one person with MS may not be able to participate in chiropractic care, another may be given the green light to get a realignment — it depends on the individual’s needs and condition.

How has chiropractic helped you overcome your mobility issues with MS? Post your replies in the comments below or at the original “How Chiropractic Therapy Can Help Multiple Sclerosis Patients” forum entry.

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

17 comments

  1. Christian Blanchard says:

    That is a very oversimplified explanation of what chiropractic even is but, at least it wasn’t an entire article of chiropractor bashing like most are. MDs have such fragile egos, they can’t stand that there are safe and more effective treatment options out there that they know nothing about. They are just threatened by chiropractic and have been since day one. I would be a chiropractor right now, third generation actually but, MS decided to change that for me. I almost finished. I had 14 hrs of class and my last residency to go. Chiropractic has helped me so much not just with musculoskeletal problems but, also with something called the Lebowitz protocol. MDs CAN do it, they just choose not to. Btw I’m also a nurse so, I have dealt with both approaches to chronic illness and something like the Lebowitz blows modern medicine out of the water. For the most bang for your buck, go to your MD when you need medication. Go to your chiropractor to stay healthy. Find a Lebowitz provider to combat infections and sensitivities (I also have Lyme). There is room for all of us and we should be working together to help our patients and not have one side constantly trying to discredit the other. Thank goodness they haven’t been able to despite their efforts! Because helping people is the goal. Not trying to prove your relevance.

    • Tamara Sellman says:

      For a variety of reasons, our articles are kept to a specific length, so I really don’t have the space to go deep into chiropractic for MS.

      I have been using a chiropractor for years, well before I was dxed with MS (for arthritis). (Also, massage therapy.)

      I am happy to report that my primary and neuro and rest of my healthcare team do not discredit complementary/alternative medicine, but offer it, even prescribe it, in some cases.

      So I think things are getting better, but yes… it’s been a long haul getting this far.

      Tamara

    • Cam Briggs says:

      I agree with your comments entirely. There were so many factual errors in the article. Outdated thoughts. It highlighted to me how little understanding MDs have about chiro. The latest research. I too would think the way they do about chiro if I had those thoughts.so little understanding. And they then write articles base opinions on those completely false promises.
      Chiropractic’s effect is on the nervous system. There is plenty of evidence. I I could bring any MD into my office and blow them away with immediate undeniable influences on the nervous system and motor control. But they never would choose to challenge their bias.
      A local MD developed MS..immediately he took control with diet and medication ( because he new western medicine methods have never worked) he reversed it. Is living a happy healthy life. I treat MS patients giving every day..giving them.much more independence.

      Thanks for leibowitz info. I will look into it..

  2. Dina Ashley says:

    Let me explain something to you: practical chiropractic care is neurologically healing, requires more medical training on the human body than any other medical field, and allows the body to heal itself the way it was designed. The prostitution that is “therapeutic” chiropractic care only deals with local pain, and then collects on the insurance. There is no healing with that method,therefore there is no valid comparison. Practical chiropractic treatments will allow the body to heal. Nature needs us to stop interfering before it’s too late.

    • Shirley A. Nobbs says:

      Chiropractor is my most important help in my care of the MS symptoms, especially helping for the pain. I also see a Reiki massage therapist once a week. She relaxes my body, which very helpful.

      • Tamara Sellman says:

        I also do a combination of chiropractic and massage. Down to monthly “tune ups.” Works great!
        Tamara

  3. SHARYN DIGERONIMO says:

    Not all chiropractic care is the same. Since 1995, I’ve been under the care of chiropractors who practice Network Spinal Analysis (NSA). This is a non-cracking form of chiropractic. Very light touch is used, first at the top and bottom of the spine, no more pressure than how you would touch an eyeball. This helps release meningeal tension. It literally untwists the meninges surrounding the spinal column. It is the only form of chiropractic which has been proven effective in double blind studies. It’s also undergoing myriad studies for many illness and wellness concerns. If anyone is interested, please Google it, look up Donald Epstein on YouTube, to see what it is, and maybe look for a practitioner near you. Ihave had regular, cracking chiropractic and NSA. Instead of forcing bones back into place through cracking, NSA relieves the tension which caused the bones to shift and the body corrects itself. I had a severe herniated disc which, through NSA, is now barely budging. My slight scoliosis curve corrected and I gained 3/4 inch in height. I could ramble on for hours about the benifits to me, friends, family and especially my 88 year old mother. But do the research yourself and make an educated decision.

  4. Thomas J Potisk says:

    I’ve been a Doctor of Chiropractic for 33 years and have seen many MS patients obtain relief of symptoms through Chiropractic adjustments. Research is ongoing, but is showing superiority over medical care in safety, and cost effectiveness.

  5. Marcy E Mack says:

    I am a 68 year old female with MS and severe arthritis joint damage and disfiguration accelerated since age 54. A couple years ago I was faced with giving ☝ driving. I am also the sole care giver for a husband with severe gout liver and kidney damage as well as several other types of arthritis that keeps him home bound. Our medical clinic had a chiropractic and masseuse practice. I interviewed and went through several treatments on my neck and shoulders. I was unable to rotate my head to safely drive or pass in traffic. The masseuse was a deep tissue practioner8 not a feel good masseuse. Together the team provided enough mobility I can safely drive. I still see the Chiropractor for maintenance and occasional problems. Under their care I can reduce my pain meds. We have several horses two I use as therapy horses so I need to remain mobile. I rate my Chiropractor equal to my Orthopedic Surgeon. Thank God for my choice in medical providers. Try different Chiropractors. Its like searching for comfortable shoes. You’ll find one or two that fit your needs. I highly recommend Whitefish Chiropractic in Whitefish Montana.

  6. Irina says:

    My MS neurologist did not give the green light for chiropractic treatment. (I have degenerative disc disease.). I had had back pain for years, so I ignored that advice. But my latest chiropractor worried about my spinal lesions and limited my treatment based on MS. Now I just using a massage chair and think it’s a better approach.

  7. Lisa Alvarez says:

    I too used chiropractic care some well before I was diagnosed. However, I have minor lower back pain and have found the chiropractic care always gives me relief. In combination with exercising really helps keep it at bay!
    Lisa

    • Tamara Sellman says:

      Hey, if it’s working, then that’s awesome! Nobody likes pain and so many of us have lower back pain in particular. Relief is what it’s all about.
      Tamara

  8. Ronda Hubbard says:

    My comment is about getting a healthcare professional in the city of Topeka, Kansas with surrounding cities to treat multiple helath conditons and continuing to have health insurance. To be honest, I have been to many cities around Topeka and bring shuffeled around in this city with others such as: Wichita, Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri side with going to Lawrence and Newton, Kansas trying to receive adaquate healthcare treatment from just one physician. The many diagnosis’s range from: Fibromyalgia, Degenerative Disc Disease in the lower back with MS. Cervical Spondolynosis in the neck, Peroneal Nerve issue in right knee with having Osteoarthritis in both knees and shoulders, drop foot in the right foot. Then, there is Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain, Irrital Bowel Syndrome with many autoimmune conditions such as: SLE, Rheumatoid Arthritis. Ulnar Nueropathy in both elbows, GERD with blood issues. This year I just got on Disability and each physician when I am transferred around askes me if I work. I haven’t mention that in 2015 of July being diagnosed with Panhyperplasia of the Bone Marrow until now and many healthcare physicians have changed the diagnosis because when I go in to get a blood draw and the counts is very low. I am prescribed Prednisone and counts go back up. As, I have shared about much needed health treatment and me being disabled this city Topeka that I live in keep changing my medical coverage from month to month. To go from having coverage when I wasn’t receiving any type of money from the government to when I started getting money. I went from whole medical coverage to not having coverage, then on a medical needy basis with a spend down of 4,000.00 dollars for me to have paid in within 6 months of medical bills and if I didn’t meet that deductible I would be kicked off thw medical needy program. And, to have High Blood Pressure and needing to take medication for it and other medical issues with never knowing when you will have to pay full price for the medications I can’t see a Chiropractic because I never know when I health insurance, and then what is covered with the medical insurance. Thank you all for listening. Needed help with all these concerns I have put public because it have bewn hard for me.

  9. RP says:

    Physical Therapy has been far superior to Chiropractic therapy my SPMS symptoms. The chronic spasticity and spasms worsened under Chiropractic practices, but responded and responds very well with PT.

    • Tamara Sellman says:

      Hi RP
      Thanks for sharing your experiences here. Some people thrive using only chiropractic, others such as yourself do not, and then still others do a combination (myself included–I do chiro+massage). Just a great reminder that we are all empowered to do what’s best for us as individuals and that trying a therapy and not finding a result isn’t a failure but good information that can help us going forward.
      Tamara

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