Information About CAM and MS

For CAM in general, the information available to the general public is vast but of variable quality. For CAM that is relevant to MS, the amount of information is limited and the quality also is variable. To attempt to understand the type of information that is available on CAM and MS, we conducted an informal survey of the popular literature on CAM at the Rocky Mountain Multiple Sclerosis Center. At two local bookstores, we found 50 CAM books written for a lay audience. Two-thirds of these books had sections on MS. In some books, MS was incorrectly defined as a form of muscular dystrophy. Other books made the erroneous—and potentially dangerous—statement that, because MS is an immune disorder, it is important to take supplements that stimulate the immune system. In fact, MS is an immune disorder, but it is characterized by an excessively active immune system; thus, immune-stimulating supplements actually may be harmful. On average, the CAM books recommended five or six therapies for MS. In 20 percent of them, 10 or more therapies were recommended. It was rare for books to discourage the use of any CAM treatment. Interestingly, none had the same recommended therapies. In general, therapies that are used more frequently by patients appear to be those that are recommended more often in books; the fact that this information contains inaccuracies is therefore troubling.

In addition to books, information about CAM can be obtained from vendors of products and CAM practitioners. Unfortunately, product vendors, such as people who sell supplements, often exaggerate claims about their products. Practitioners of CAM (as well as product vendors) sometimes have limited experience with MS and are not certain how their therapy relates to such a specific and complex disease process.

Physicians and other mainstream health care providers are another potential source of information about CAM. Unfortunately, this group generally is not trained or experienced in CAM use and, for a variety of reasons, often is reluctant to become involved in this area. Even for conventional health care providers who are interested in CAM, only a limited amount of objective and accessible MS-specific information is currently available in the medical literature.

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