Patient Blogs | Multiple Sclerosis
Alternative Therapies I've Used to Help My Multiple Sclerosis
photo of back of woman holding yoga mat outdoors

Two decades ago, when I was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) the only recommendation doctors had for helping me manage my symptoms was to take my medications. But I wanted more, so I started seeking additional options -- what we know today as complementary therapies.

Initially, I started with massage therapy in order to relieve my body, which felt like it was in a knot, especially in my upper back and legs. I continued with massage therapy on a weekly basis as it was the modality that made me comfortable, but it was not sustainable for greater than 2 to 3 days at a time.

Over the years, I have used a number of these treatments. I will name those that are currently available and may be considered for different situations that arise with multiple sclerosis.

The most important therapy I instituted was EXERCISE! Exercise has been amazing in improving my fatigue, enhancing a good night's sleep, and my overall general health benefits. Plus, we should all be aware of exercise’s role in preventing comorbid conditions such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

I have also tried acupuncture for the management of the spasticity in my legs and upper back. This modality is not sustainable for long periods of time.

In the past decade, one of the modalities that has been successful in management of many symptoms is meditation. I have incorporated meditation in my life for the past 5 years, and the benefits in stress management, easing anxiety, and creating tranquility in my life have been most beneficial.

Additional therapies to be considered are aqua therapy, yoga, music therapy, and engaging with likeminded people in community.

Cognitive decline can be one of the comorbidities of multiple sclerosis, and activities to maintain good cognition should also be implemented as one ages in order to avoid cognitive decline. This involves good nutrition, exercise, good-quality sleep, executing brain exercises daily, and keeping engaged in a community of friends and family.

When making decisions about alternative therapies and lifestyle changes, one must bear in mind that this is an individual decision; one needs to be aware of when it is reasonable to pursue these approaches for one’s situation. These approaches may be worth pursuing for conditions in which conventional medical therapy is ineffective or only partially effective. Have a plan for using alternative methods and lifestyle changes. It is recommended that certain steps must be taken, such as:

  • Evaluate and address the reason for wanting to use alternative methods.
  • Obtain accurate information about the effectiveness, safety, cost, and effort involved.
  • Discuss it with your doctor and monitor your response and discontinue treatment when appropriate.

It is important to include a doctor and other health care providers in the process with those who have broad knowledge about the diagnosis and treatment of your medical condition. It is also important to be aware of your response both physically and emotionally to the different therapies that you alternatively pursue and discuss it with your health care providers. The goal is to discover which complementary and alternative therapy is helpful and sustainable in promoting comfort and joy in our new lifestyle!


To connect with other people living with multiple sclerosis join our MS Facebook Support Group.




Photo Credit: mapodile / E+ via Getty Images

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Cynthia Guy, MD

Cynthia Guy, MD

Diagnosed since 2000

Cynthia Guy, MD, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000. She transitioned from her career as an anesthesiologist to become a speaker, researcher, and author, releasing her book, Love Yourself Healthy, in 2014. Guy has been an active advocate for the Multiple Sclerosis Society and Alzheimer's Association and, at 81, is still actively promoting healthy living with her educational site on brain matters. 

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