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More MS news articles for March 2003

Use of unconventional therapies by individuals with multiple sclerosis

Clin Rehabil 2003 Mar;17(2):181-91
Nayak S, Matheis RJ, Schoenberger NE, Shiflett SC.
Department of Psychiatry, New Jersey Medical School, UMDNJ, Newark, NJ 07103, USA.


To examine the prevalence and patterns of use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) among individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the USA and to explore the reasons for use, symptoms treated and perceived effectiveness of these therapies.


Surveys were mailed to the entire mailing list of the MS Foundation, constituting 11,600 individuals with MS or their family members; 3,140 adults with MS returned surveys, yielding a response rate of 27.1%.


More than half of the responding sample (57.1%) had used at least one CAM modality.

The longer that people had MS and the less satisfied they were with conventional health care the more likely they were to use CAM therapies.

The most common reasons for using CAMs were the desire to use holistic health care (i.e., treatments that recognized the interrelatedness of mind, body and spirit) and dissatisfaction with conventional medicine.

Ingested herbs were the most frequently used CAM modalities (26.6%), followed by chiropractic manipulation (25.5%), massage (23.3%) and acupuncture (19.9%).

Women were 25% more likely than men and whites were 30% more likely than non-whites to use CAM therapies.

There was no significant relationship between the frequency of use and the reported efficacy of the CAM techniques (r = 0.17, p > 0.10).


The prevalence of CAM use in this population warrants more research on the efficacy and safety of these therapies, especially those with high usage or high efficacy ratings, such as herbs, chiropractic manipulation and massage, but for which there is little or no research evidence for efficacy or safety.