Use of Therapies Other Than Disease-Modifying Agents, Including Complementary and Alternative Medicine, by Patients With Multiple Sclerosis: A Survey Study

Sharon S. Stoll, MS, DO; Christine Nieves, BA; David Stuart Tabby, DO; and Robert Schwartzman, MD
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: March 24, 2011

Accepted: September 7, 2012

Published: January 1, 2012

J Osteopath Med; 112(1): 22-28

Context: Many patients with multiple sclerosis use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to supplement their traditional treatment.

Objectives: To identify both the prevalence and frequency of use of therapies other than disease-modifying agents (DMAs), including CAM, among patients with multiple sclerosis.

Methods: The authors administered a 13-question survey regarding patients’ current use of non-DMA therapies—including dietary supplements, exercise, and “true” CAM (eg, acupuncture, chiropractic, massage)—and mainstream treatments, including physical therapy and osteopathic manipulative treatment. Patients rated their level of disability on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being most severe). The setting was a hospital outpatient clinic in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Inclusion criteria were physician-confirmed multiple sclerosis (either relapsing-remitting or progressive), regardless of sex, duration of disease, age at onset, disability level, or type of disease. Patients were excluded if they were younger than 18 years. The main outcome measure was patient-reported use of non-DMA therapies and perception of disability.

Results: A total of 111 patients with multiple sclerosis completed the survey properly. All respondents used non-DMA therapies. Twenty-three patients (20.7%) used these therapies without concomitantly taking a DMA. A plurality (34.8%) of those patients reported a disability score of 7 or 8. Sixty-two of the 88 participants (70.5 %) who used DMAs reported disability scores of 5 or less. Sixty-five patients (58.6.%) reported exercising on a weekly basis. Among those patients, 47 (72.3%) reported a disability score of 5 or less. Sixty-four patients (57.7%) used such CAM therapies as acupuncture and massage, or such other non-DMA treatments as osteopathic manipulative treatment and psychotherapy. Among those patients, 37 (64.9%) reported a disability score of 5 or less.

Conclusions: Many patients with multiple sclerosis are seeking more than traditional medical treatment. Physicians and other health care professionals must be aware of the extensive use of alternative modalities among these patients, and these professionals must provide guidance and monitoring in use of these therapies to improve outcomes.

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