Complementary and Alternative Medicine Usage by Multiple Sclerosis Patients: Results from a Prospective Clinical Study

J Altern Complement Med. 2018 Jun;24(6):596-602. doi: 10.1089/acm.2017.0268. Epub 2018 Mar 2.


Objectives: To investigate the factors associated with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) usage by multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. Design, Setting/Location: Single-center, prospective clinical study at an academic MS center in the northeastern United States.

Methods: This study included CAM data from 524 MS patients and 304 healthy controls (HC) enrolled in a prospective study of clinical, neuroimaging, and environmental risk factors in MS at an academic MS Center. Clinical, neuroimaging, and disease-modifying treatment data were obtained. In addition, data on usage of CAM modalities, including acupuncture, aromatherapy, Ayurveda, Chinese herbal medicine, chiropractor, electromagnetic therapy, homeopathy, hypnosis, massage, naturopathy, Qi gong, Reiki, therapeutic touch, and bee stings were collected in an in-person interview.

Results: The percentages of HC reporting usage of any CAM (32%) was similar to that in MS patients after diagnosis (30.5%). The usage of any CAM was higher in MS patients after MS diagnosis compared to before MS diagnosis (p < 0.001). The three most frequently used CAM for MS patients after MS diagnosis and HC were chiropractor, massage, and acupuncture. The most frequent reasons for CAM use were MS symptom relief, back problems, and pain. In multivariate analysis, female gender, higher education level, MS disease course, and not currently on disease-modifying therapies (DMT) treatment status were associated with CAM usage.

Conclusions: Gender, education level, DMT treatment status, and MS disease course are associated with CAM usage in MS patients. Ever-CAM usage patterns in MS patients are similar to those in HC.

Keywords: alternative medicine; complementary medicine; disease-modifying therapy; multiple sclerosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Complementary Therapies* / methods
  • Complementary Therapies* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / therapy*
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies