Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
is a complex condition that currently affects approximately 4000,000 people in
the United States, with 200 more people diagnosed every week. This chronic
disease causes uncomfortable, sometimes debilitating symptoms that can make
it difficult to perform everyday tasks.
An unpredictable condition
The exact causes of MS are
not entirely understood and there is currently no cure,
though there have been many advances in treatment in recent
years. Western medicine considers MS an autoimmune condition,
which occurs when the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues.
In the case of MS, the immune system starts attacking and
breaking down a substance called myelin, the sheath that
surrounds the nerve fibers of the central nervous system.
Myelin increases the speed of the transmission of nerve signals.
When the myelin becomes “broken”
or destroyed, nerve impulses are slowed down, leading to a
progression of nerve related problems. When these nerve fibers
become damaged, symptoms can result, including:
The symptoms of MS vary from person to person,
can range from minor to severe, can even disappear for a period of time only
to show up unexpectedly.
Depending upon your symptoms
and the progression of the disease, you doctor may suggest
medications designed to slow the disease and/or medications
for the symptoms.
It is important to take an
active role in your treatment. More and more, people
living with MS are choosing to complement their Western
treatment with acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine
(TCM). Acupuncture and TCM can provide a safe, natural way
for those living with MS to stay as healthy as possible.
Including, acupuncture and TCM in your treatment plan can
help boost your overall health and relieve symptoms.
Practitioner of TCM views MS differently than Western medicine
practitioners, taking into account each individual’s overall health,
lifestyle, and emotional well-being not just their symptoms.
TCM is based on the concept that Qi,
(pronounced “chee”) or vital energy, flows through the body in channels
called meridians. If Qi becomes stagnant, unbalanced, or deficient,
symptoms such as those linked to MS can result. This can occur for any
number of reasons, from an inherited constitutional imbalance or illness
to stress or an external invader such as wind or dampness.
Your practitioner will work to determine
the condition at the root of your symptoms in order to create a treatment
plan. For example, the muscular stiffness and numbness associated with MS
are often related to excessive dampness within the meridians, or deficiency
in the Liver and Kidney organ systems.
Based on their diagnosis,
your acupuncture practitioner will work to balance the
Qi in the body’s organ systems by manipulating corresponding
points on the body with hair-thin acupuncture needles. While
acupuncture alone can’t cure MS, it has been found to be
particularly useful in managing symptoms such as pain, muscle
spasm, and bladder problems.
MS can have an impact on every part of
your life. To help support both your physical and emotional
well-being. Your practitioner may suggest some of these lifestyle
changes and self-care techniques.
Your practitioner may provide herbs or traditional
supplements designed to help relieve symptoms and
boost your overall health. Be sure to let your other
health care providers know if you take supplements in
order to avoid any potential drug interactions.
Staying cool. Heat can make
symptoms of MS worse. Tepid baths, cool drinks, and air
conditioning may help make you more comfortable.
Exercise. Yoga and Qi Gong
can help improve strength, balance, and depression.
Consider adding gentle aerobic exercise as well to
improve your overall health and reduce stress.
Stress can exacerbate symptoms and cause other
health problems, so it’s important to keep your
stress levels in check. Meditation or deep-breathing
techniques can help you stay calm and relaxed. Massage
is another great way to help relieve stress and loosen
tense muscle. If your anxiety becomes overwhelming,
consider talking to a professional.
MS is a serious condition,
but many people with MS live long, happy, fulfilled lives.
Acupuncture and TCM can provide the support you need to
cope with MS and its effects. If you or someone you love
is facing MS, contact an acupuncturist today.