Many people with multiple sclerosis as well as those with other chronic diseases use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)treatments. Fifty to 70% of patients with MS do so. Exclusive CAM use among patients with MS ranges from 10% to 30%. Exclusive means the patients do not use standard disease-modifying drugs.

According to a study published in International Journal of MS Care, Fall 2014, four themes characterize the participants’ treatment assumptions: (1) Conventional medicine contains chemical substances that affect the body in negative ways; (2) CAM treatments can strengthen the organism and make it more capable of resisting the impact of MS; (3) the patient’s active participation is an important component of the healing process; (4) bodily sensations can be used to guide treatment selection.

This choice is not due primarily to dissatisfaction with conventional medicine but rather that active decision-making and a feeling of personal control are more important factors. What may seem like an irrational act from a physician’s point of view may be a rational choice when viewed from the patient’s perspective. It is part of a general trend among health-care consumers toward health optimization and performance enhancement.

Physicians should collaborate with these patients and try to combine conventional medicine with complementary and alternative medicine.

Dr. Jack Florin, MD

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