Acupuncture May Benefit Patients Who Suffer with MS

Acupuncture can help relieve symptoms related to MS, and deserves further study. In Acupuncture and Multiple Sclerosis: A Review of the Evidence, researchers took a close look at prior studies of MS and found a lack of rigorously designed research that would allow a scientific conclusion to the effectiveness of acupuncture. The majority of the studies were poorly designed—without control, randomization, or blinding. Description of the subjects, interventions, and outcome measures as well as statistical analysis was often lacking or minimal. Although many of the studies suggested that acupuncture was successful in improving MS related symptoms, lack of statistical rigor and poor study design make it difficult to draw any conclusions about the true effectiveness of this intervention in the MS population. They call for further, better designed studies before accurate claims can be made.

When the National MS Society addresses the effectiveness of acupuncture on patients with Multiple Sclerosis, they don’t discount the smaller studies that demonstrate some success. “To date, however, there have been no large-scale controlled clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of acupuncture in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). The few small studies that have been done suggest a possible benefit for fatigue, pain, mood and quality of life, but these findings await confirmation in larger studies.”

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease affecting 300,000 people in the United States and 2.3 million worldwide. It is characterized by autoimmune destruction of central nervous system (CNS) myelin, resulting in progressive loss of the function. Any CNS structure can be a potential target of MS, and, therefore, a great variety of symptoms are possible. Medical management had shown some success in limiting the frequency and intensity of disease activity, but only for persons with relapsing-remitting MS. Disease activity in patients with primary progressive or secondary progressive MS has not been shown to improve from medical intervention. Many persons with MS have also been dissatisfied with medical management due to perceptions that the medication has a range of unpleasant side effects. This has led many persons with MS to investigate the use of alternative therapies to treat their disease.

In the article Making Some Valid Points About Acupuncture and MS, the author, Laura Kolaczkowski, reveals that many symptoms of MS can be treated with acupuncture, including bladder function, gait problems and fatigue. A number of quality-of-life measures also can be looked at with these treatments. Kolaczkowski shares with readers that she has been treated for some of the pains and common symptoms associated with MS, and that she also goes in for what she calls a routine tune-up. In her experience, acupuncture has a calming effect and she can truly relax during treatments.

A brochure developed by the National MS Society, describes two large surveys—one in the United States and one in Canada—have been conducted involving people with MS and acupuncture. Although the results of surveys are not as convincing as those from clinical trials, they are an important method for generating ideas for further research. The preliminary findings of both studies are similar. In each, 20–25% of the respondents who said they have MS had tried acupuncture, and 10–15% of those who tried it indicated that they planned to continue using it. In both surveys, pain, spasticity, and numbness or tingling were among the symptoms most frequently reported to be improved. Other symptoms that were frequently reported to be improved by acupuncture included fatigue, depression, anxiety, and bowel or bladder function.

It seems that the studies reviewed in the abstract legitimize the idea that acupuncture may provide benefits for people who suffer with MS, and deserves further study, particularly because it involves no drugs and does no harm to the body. The National Institute of Health concluded that acupuncture is a safe, well-tolerated treatment, especially if performed by a well-trained acupuncturist.