Alternative Medicine Treatment and Benefits for MS Patients

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Alternative Medicine

A small electromagnetic device thought to help supplement the body's electrical energy has shown some beneficial effects for patients with multiple sclerosis, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Washington.

Results of a small double-blind study of MS patients showed that 9 of 15 patients treated with the device reported subjective improvements ranging from 22 to 38 percent in combined self-reported scores rating eight different symptoms, said Dr. Todd Richards, associate professor of radiology at the University of Washington and principal investigator. Those symptoms most responsive to treatment appear to be bladder control, cognitive functioning, spasticity and fatigue.

"Why would pulsing magnetic fields have an effect on MS? Because the brain is an organ that emits electrical energy," researchers from the University of Washington and elsewhere wrote in the Spring, 1997 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

The electromagnetic device, approximately the size of a wristwatch and powered by a 3-volt battery, emits a pulse of magnetic energy at a power of 50 to 100 milliGauss ? roughly equal to the energy emitted from a hair dryer, Richards said. The 30 MS patients in the study wore the device, attached to their hip, shoulder or back, for 10 to 24 hours a day for a period of two months. Half of the patients received devices which were activated, while the other half received inactive devices.

Each device, manufactured by Energy Medicine Developments Inc. in Vancouver B.C., was individually programmed by researchers using a special instrument to identify weak bioelectrical fields produced by the body. After detecting areas of low frequency levels in a patient, researchers programmed the device to emit compensating frequencies in an attempt to compensate for the energy deficit. Richards said the research shows that there are certain frequencies that are consistently low in patients with MS.

Before and after the trial, researchers assessed patients' status by means of a clinical rating (standard physical examination); a patient-reported performance scale (rating bladder control, cognitive level, fatigue level, hand function, mobility, sensory, spasticity and vision); and an EEG reading during which a language comprehension test was administered.

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Results showed that two of the three types of testing had positive results. The third (clinical rating) was unchanged. Richards said these clinical tests were not sensitive to patient symptoms such as fatigue, bladder control and cognitive function. In addition to improvements in combined patient-reported subjective scores, results of the EEG tests for these patients showed an average 19 percent increase in alpha wave readings during the language task, a finding which Richards said may indicate improvement in the brain's ability to process information.

Three patients showed no improvement following the study.

Dr. George Kraft, professor of rehabilitation medicine and director of the University of Washington MS Clinical Center, said that this preliminary study, of which he is a co-author, offers "encouraging" results on the management of MS patient symptoms. "However, while (the devices) may relieve some of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, patients must not expect that they will in any way alter the disease course," Kraft said. "At the present time, immunomodulating medications are available which have been scientifically proven to slow down the course of the disease, and patients should seek care from physicians familiar with the management of MS disorder in order to take advantage of these."

Richards explains the concept behind the pulsing device ? readjusting the body's bioelectrical signals ? is one not readily accepted by American medical professionals. He likens body frequencies to vitamins and minerals ? the body needs them to be healthy and people could benefit by supplementing the frequencies where they are deficient.

"This magnetic device acts like a vitamin supplement by giving back to a person those frequencies his or her body is deficient in," he said.

Multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system affecting more than 300,000 Americans, is characterized by a breakdown in the myelin sheath which surrounds the nerve fibers of the brain. This results in the inability of nerves to conduct electrical impulses to and from the brain, leading to problems with speech and motor control. Richards theorized the pulsing device might help to synchronize the electrical circuits in the brain.

The Enermed device used in the study is just one of the electrical pulsing devices on the market. These devices may or may not have patient-specific frequencies. While unavailable in the United States, electronic pulsing devices have been offered in Europe and in Canada for several years and are best known for use in the treatment of migraine headaches.

Richards noted that further testing is needed to measure the effects of the magnetic pulsing device on MS patients. Future studies will involve the use of more objective measurement devices to detect possible effects on sensory perception, memory and accuracy.

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