The Impact of Acupuncture for Multiple Sclerosis: Alternative Treatment is Not Well Studied
Some people turn to acupuncture for multiple sclerosis, but use of this alternative or complementary treatment choice is not well studied. Here’s what a recent review and an additional study have to say about the use of acupuncture for relief of MS symptoms. Please feel free to share your experiences!
The review evaluated 15 studies: five looked at the impact of acupuncture on quality of life; three looked at the effect on fatigue in MS; three were animal studies; and two each examined spasticity in MS and pain in MS. Some of the quality of life studies included bladder and bowel issues and/or gait problems.
Some experts have stated that multiple sclerosis is associated with the elements of phlegm and dampness, which are associated with poor memory, double vision, numbness, and heaviness. Acupuncture is based on the principle that treating specific acupoints on the body along meridians can unblock the body’s natural energy, or chi, and restore balance to specific elements in the human body.
Acupuncture and multiple sclerosis
Not all of the studies reviewed yielded significant or positive results. However, here is quick look at what some of the researchers did find.
Nine patients with bladder dysfunction were treated with electroacupuncture. This was a noncontrol, nonrandomized test. All of the patients received 30 minutes of treatment once weekly for 10 weeks. Based on the patients’ diary entries and questionnaire responses, the authors found significant improvements in urge frequency, daytime and nighttime voiding frequency, and daytime leakage episodes after treatment.
Thirty patients with relapsing-remitting MS were treated with electroacupuncture for 30 minutes once a week for six consecutive months in a randomized controlled study. Improvements were recorded in pain, depression, and quality of life.
Use of acupuncture to treat fatigue in multiple sclerosis was explored in three studies. One involved 20 patients who received 12 acupuncture treatments over eight weeks. All of them had not responded to amantadine, an antifatigue drug. One-quarter of the patients showed an improvement in fatigue.
Two different case studies looked at acupuncture (20 minutes once weekly for seven weeks; 30 minutes once weekly for four weeks plus two more treatments) in two single patients. One patient showed improvement in fatigue and the other had a decrease in heaviness, problems with coordination, and falling.
Only one study has looked at acupuncture and its impact on spasticity. Four female patients were studied. Only one patient showed an improvement in activities of daily living scores.
When it comes to pain, the majority of MS patients experience it at one time or another. Forty-nine individuals with multiple sclerosis were treated with biweekly acupuncture treatments for six months to determine its impact on pain. A significant improvement was reported on the Oswestry Disability Index. However, there was no report on whether pain medications were also being used by the patients.
A single report of the success of acupuncture in multiple sclerosis was reported in Global Advances in Health and Medicine. A 65-year-old man who had had MS for 20 years was treated with acupuncture in his scalp for points associated with balance, headache, dizziness, foot and sensory areas, and tremor. Treatment was once weekly for ten weeks, then once monthly for six months.
After 16 weeks of treatment, the patient demonstrated significant improvement in standing and walking, numbness and tingling in this limbs, energy level, dizziness, and urinary incontinence. The patient was in remission for at least 26 months.
Is acupuncture an effective way to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis? The scientific evidence is not overwhelming, but that has not stopped some people from trying it. Are you among those who have tried acupuncture for multiple sclerosis, or do you know someone who has?
Also check out alternative treatments for MS
Hao JJ et al. Treatment of multiple sclerosis with Chinese scalp acupuncture. Global Advances in Health and Medicine 2013 Jan; 2(1): 8-13
Karpatkin HI et al. Acupuncture and multiple sclerosis: a review of the evidence. Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014; 2014:972935