Bridge to Health Blog
Bridge to Health Blog

Can acupuncture help multiple sclerosis?

Written by Jackie Graham   Posted in:Acupuncture Therapy   May 21, 2019

Can acupuncture help multiple sclerosis?
Around 10,000 people in the UK have multiple sclerosis.  Physical symptoms can include vision and balance problems, fatigue, stiffness and/or spasms and bladder issues.  Typically, treatment includes drugs, physiotherapy and changes to diet.  Increasingly however, sufferers are turning to acupuncture to help relieve symptoms.  So how does acupuncture work, and can it help?

How acupuncture works
Acupuncture is one element of traditional Chinese Medicine, which believes that health depends on the body’s life force or energy flow known as Qi.  The Qi flows through 12 pathways in the body.  When the Qi is blocked, weakened or flows in the wrong direction this leads to ill health.  An Acupuncturist uses specific needles; aiming to correct and strengthen the flow of Qi.

Anecdotal support for acupuncture for MS
These are the words of a man who regularly uses acupuncture to help with his MS symptoms:
“Once the needles were in, I immediately experienced a sensation of deep relaxation.  My body felt lighter and within a minute, I fell into a deep sleep. Overall, I felt rejuvenated and I opted to return for several repeat treatments during that first month.  To this day I get acupuncture treatments when I feel out of balance or I’m experiencing symptoms related to my MS.  Acupuncture is not a substitute for my MS treatments, but it is something that I have found to very helpful to manage the physical and emotional symptoms and side-effects related to my disease.”

I have MS, should I try acpuncture?
Acupuncture should not be seen as a treatment to cure MS but it may be able to help relieve some of the symptoms, including bladder problems, depression, numbness and tingling.  Please be aware that it is likely to take several treatments to effect improvement in your symptoms. 

Available research evidence
An American survey of 1,000 people with MS found that about one in five had used acupuncture, mostly for pain or anxiety.  About half of those surveyed had also said that fatigue, depression, spasticity and sleep problems improved as a result.  Although there is much anecdotal support for acupuncture for MS symptoms, there is still limited research.  The studies which have been carried out tend to be small and treatment protocols inconsistent. 
Some of the findings from these studies are as follows:
  • A 2014 review of 12 studies concluded that there was some suggestion that acupuncture could improve quality of life, fatigue spasticity and pain.
  • A 2017 study looked at the effects of acupuncture in people with MS with walking difficulties, comparing true acupuncture with sham acupuncture.  95% of those receiving true acupuncture saw an improvement in walking as measured by the timed 25-foot walk test compared with 45% in the sham treatment group.
  • A 2018 review of acupuncture for spasticity in a number of conditions including MS concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence that acupuncture (including electro-acupuncture) could reduce spasticity in MS.
For further information regarding research please visit the British Acupuncture Council website.
It is always a good idea to consult your GP before embarking on any form of complementary therapy - we certainly recommend this. If you have any other questions, please contact Jackie at Bridge to Health for more information or to book an appointment.
Tags: Acupuncture,


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