Complementary and alternative medicines are increasingly popular among people with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the northwestern United States, a survey found.
More than 80% of the 1,000 people who responded to the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) survey reported using supplements and exercise to help treat their MS, and around 40% have turned to mind-body therapies and diet.
The study based on survey findings, “Cross-sectional survey of complementary and alternative medicine used in Oregon and Southwest Washington to treat multiple sclerosis: A 17-Year update,” was published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.
Various disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) are approved to treat MS. But patients continue to experience “ongoing bothersome symptoms, including fatigue, gait dysfunction, and spasticity” while using them, the researchers wrote, and “frequently turn to complementary therapies to help address their … symptoms.”
Complementary and alternative medicine, known as CAM, refers to medical treatments and practices that fall outside of standard care. Complementary medicine refers to those used alongside standard treatments, while alternative medicines are those used in place of conventional treatment.
While some CAMs have been shown to be effective for certain indications, for others evidence of benefits is lacking — and some CAMs may cause harm. In general, less scientific evidence exists to support the use of CAMs than conventional treatments.
The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) published a first comprehensive review, with guidelines, covering the use of CAM to treat MS in 2011. But in the years since, “to the best of our knowledge, no follow-up surveys have evaluated changes in CAM use,” the researchers wrote.
A team led by scientists at the OHSU School of Medicine surveyed MS patients living in Washington state and Oregon in 2018 regarding their use of CAMs. Their survey was a revised version of a similar survey OHSU conducted in 2001 among MS patients in the same area.
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