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CAM comes in a variety of forms

By Maggie Courier

Though most often, conventional medicines are used when treating multiple sclerosis, complementary and alternative medicine include both medical practices and products that may also be part of an MS patient’s healthcare.

Complementary medicines are used in conjunction with standard medicines such as prescribed DMTs. When CAM treatments are used in place of conventional medicines, they are referred to as alternative. There is not much published documented evidence that using CAM will modify the disease course. However, there is a great deal of information to be found on the Internet, including stories and testimonials patients have shared about their experiences after using CAM. When considering the use of CAM, it is wise to consult with your doctor and to keep them updated on your experience. Your doctor should be able to see both beneficial and negative effects to keep you on the right path to managing your MS treatment.

There are common CAM treatments as well as many that are lesser known. I have complied a list of CAM I have tried during the past 20 years. I will provide my definition as well as my experiences. I will not include all CAM options, there are many more than what I will list. Not everything will work the same for everybody – you may encounter unwanted side effects or unwanted medical interactions. Some exercise may be difficult, and some options may even be too expensive. Be sure that you are aware and be willing to try and be prepared to end an option if it is not right for you!

Yoga: A type of slow exercise used to improve balance and coordination. It enhances mind and body connectivity.

I have found yoga to be beneficial for stretching and balancing. It has helped me with relaxation to calm my overactive mind.

Reflexology: A massage therapy that uses gentle pressure on specific zones on your feet, hands, or ears to release energy. It may help to calm nerves and promote relaxation.

I have found occasional foot reflexology to be very soothing both during and after the treatment session. I leave feeling energized.

Tai Chi: A minimal impact martial art that is done with slow movement. It increases strength, flexibility, balance, and cognition. Deep breathing and focus are major parts of the exercise.

I have found that Tai Chi is a beneficial practice both mentally and physically. It helps me to refine my ability to focus and follow the instructor’s directions. Balance has always been a problem for me, yet with this exercise. I was able to increase the stability of my gait.

Acupuncture: A therapy using thin metal needles inserted in various points on the skin that are then manipulated by the practitioner’s hands or electrical stimulation. Some patients have reported feeling energized after a session, others have reported relaxation.

I have been through a session of acupuncture and though it was an interesting concept, I cannot report feeling any changes.

Aromatherapy: A therapy for both physical and mental health that uses fragrance (usually from natural essential oils) to enhance wellbeing. Aromatherapy scents can be used in baths, during massage, through a diffuser or directly on the skin, as well as through many other applications. Popular aromatherapy scents are lavender, sage, eucalyptus, citrus, and peppermint that are used for an array of benefits.

I find aromatherapy to be one of the most useful CAM methods I practice. I find the use of lavender in an oil diffuser helps me to relax and to fall asleep on tense nights. Citrus scents tend to energize me and the use of peppermint, (mixed with a carrier oil), rolled on my skin helps eliminate cog fog

Sound therapy: This is a therapy that uses various live or recorded sounds, music, and specialist instruments played in therapeutic ways to improve health and wellbeing. One of the most powerful sound therapy methods is to use the sounds of nature to calm and soothe. Benefits of listing to sounds of nature is often used as part of daily relaxation practices. 

My state of mind affects how I feel, so sometimes bringing that stress level down helps to keep anxiety and melancholy at bay. I often listen to water sounds, as those rhythmic tones of nature seem to calm me. I listen to thunderstorm sounds every night to fall asleep.

There are many additional forms of CAM that can be found and used along your journey. Do your own research, be safe and meet your own goals, relax and be well.