Alternative Treatments For M.S.
Although they often don’t let their mainstream medical doctors know it, large numbers of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) use alternative treatments such as dietary supplements, acupuncture and herbal medicine to improve their lives. Thanks to researchers at the University of Copenhagen, for the first time a major research project has been undertaken to map the use of these alternative therapies by MS patients. It’s a subject of special importance to Denmark which has highest incidence of the disease worldwide.
The results of a new study were just published in two scientific journals, the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health and Autoimmune Diseases. The researchers gathered information over the course of three years from 3,800 people with MS in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland.
“There is a lot of talk about ‘self-care competence’, in other words patients helping themselves to get their lives to function. Here, many people with a chronic disease find they benefit from using alternative treatments, so we should not ignore this possibility,” head researcher Lasse Skovgaard said in a media statement.
Growing use of alternative therapies for MS
The latest information from the Danish National Institute of Public Health (NIPH) shows that one in four Danes have tried one or more types of alternative treatments within the past year. When it comes to MS patients, the use of alternative medicine has increased steadily over the past 15 years. In the researchers’ latest study, more than half of the respondents say that they either combine conventional and alternative medicineor only use alternative medicine.
The study found that MS patients who use alternative treatments tend to have a higher level of education and to make more money at their work when compared to those who don’t use alternative therapies. “Some critics are of the opinion that when alternative treatments are so popular, it is because they appeal to naive people looking for a miraculous cure. But our results indicate that it is primarily the well-educated segment that is subscribing to alternative treatments. And that using alternative treatments is part of a lifestyle choice,” Skovgaard said.
His research team is currently carrying out additional analyses of the results and conducting additional interviews with MS patients based on the results of questionnaires. For example, the investigators want to find out how patients perceive any risks associated with using alternative medicine and why some people with MS turn their backs completely on mainstream medicine.
“We cannot ignore the fact that people with chronic disease use alternative treatments to a considerable extent, and that many of them seem to benefit from doing so. It doesn’t help to only judge this from a medical point of view or say that alternative treatments are nonsense – rather, we must try to understand it,” Skovgaard concluded, adding that he hopes that the new knowledge will improve communication about how the chronically ill use alternative treatments in combination with conventional medicine, too.