Multiple Sclerosis is a progressive and degenerative autoimmune disease. Chiropractic care can be a useful adjunct therapy for patients suffering from MS symptoms.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, affects the brain and spinal cord. It is an autoimmune disease, where the body attacks its own systems. It affects women (ages 20-40) more often, but anyone at any age can get MS. In MS, the immune system attacks the myelin sheath, which is the protective covering around nerve cells. This damages nerve signals and causes inflammation. The cause is unknown, but genetics or a virus, and possibly environmental factors, all seem to contribute. The symptoms can happen anywhere in the body. The sun, a fever, and hot baths can trigger attacks. MS is a disease of relapse and remission, and it progressively worsens over the lifetime. The body systems affected include the muscles (numbness, spasms, walking and balance problems, tremors), bowel and bladder dysfunction, eye problems (including vision loss), numbness, tingling, and pain throughout the body, nervous system issues (depression, poor attention, dizziness, hearing loss), and speech and sexual symptoms. Fatigue is a frequent complaint in MS. Doctors will test for MS with neurological and eye exams, as well as lumbar puncture, MRI, and nerve function tests.1
There are no cures for MS. Some treatments may slow the progression of the disease. Medications can include Interferons, Fingolimod, Imuran, IVIg, and Cytoxan, and also steroids, drugs to reduce muscle spasms (including benzodiazepines), antidepressants, and meds for fatigue and urinary problems. Even with the medications, and their serious side effects, patients can still end up with osteoporosis, urinary tract infections, depression, and the inability to care for themselves.2 In general, traditional medical treatments aim to treat “exacerbations” and manage symptoms so that patients can focus on rehabilitation (i.e., physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy, and cognitive and vocational rehabilitation).3
There is a role for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in treating MS. Some options include stress management, dietary changes, hypnosis, relaxation, yoga, and herbal remedies.4 Recent research has shown that chiropractic care can benefit patients with MS. With chiropractic, musculoskeletal issues and pain can be reduced. Symptom management with chiropractic adjustments can help patients avoid some of the medication side-effects.5 Some promising research is emerging. “A causal link between trauma-induced upper cervical injury and disease onset for…MS…appears to exist.” Furthermore: “IUCCA protocol may arrest and reverse the progression of…MS.”6 Chiropractic therapy can also provide symptom relief in MS patients with back pain.7 Dr. Patrick Kerr, DC, BCAO noted: “The goal of all chiropractic care is to reduce pressure on the nerves, thereby allowing the body to function normally — without pain. Atlas Orthogonal [a type of chiropractic treatment] delivers this result with the least intrusion and treatment time — and with the greatest success.”8