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October 2021

Complementary and alternative therapies for treating multiple sclerosis symptoms: a systematic review

Author(s): Ernst, E.

Abstract: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the central nervous system without a known cure.Thus the role of complementary and alternative therapies (CATs) for the management of symptoms lies in palliative care and this is borne out by the popularity of these treatments amongst MS sufferers.This review is aimed at determining whether this use is supported by evidence of effectiveness from rigorous clinical trials. Database literature searches were performed and papers were extracted in a pre-defined manner.Twelve randomized controlled trials were located that investigated a CAT for MS: nutritional therapy (4), massage (I ), Feldenkrais bodywork (I ), reflexology (I ), magnetic field therapy (2), neural therapy (I) and psychological counselling (2).The evidence is not compelling for any of these therapies, with many trials suffering from significant methodological flaws.There is evidence to suggest some benefit of nutritional therapy for the physical symptoms of MS. Magnetic field therapy and neural therapy appear to have a short-term beneficial effect an the physical symptoms of MS. Massage/bodywork and psychological counselling seem to improve depression, anxiety and self-esteem.The effectiveness for other CATs is unproven at this time. In all the CATs examined further investigations are needed in the form of rigorous large-scale trials.

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