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Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

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Alternative and Complementary Therapies for MS

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How Can I Tell Which Therapies Are Worth Taking?

Alternative therapy can be helpful in many cases, but some treatments don’t work and can be costly and even dangerous. The best way to stay safe is to learn about a product before you use it. Good things to find out:

  • What is the treatment?
  • What does it involve?
  • How does it work?
  • Are there any risks?
  • What are the side effects?
  • Is it effective? (Ask for evidence or proof!)
  • How much does it cost?

Once you answer these questions, think about your options and decide whether the benefits are greater than the risks.

If you do decide to try an alternative or complementary treatment, make sure your health and wallet are protected. Here are some tips.

Don’t take any claim at face value. Contact reliable organizations and discuss the therapy. Talk to others in a support group, your family, and your health care team. Although they may not always be supportive, they can help you make an educated decision.

Discuss the therapy with your doctor. Make sure he knows what therapy you are considering so he can discuss possible side effects and how it may affect your current treatment. Your doctor can also give you information on other patients who may have tried the same therapy.

Talk to others who have used the therapy. Ask them what it was like. Don’t rely only on testimonials from the person or company offering the treatment. Track down your own references and get their opinions.

Research the provider's background. Contact the Better Business Bureau and thoroughly research the therapy provider, including how long they’ve been offering the service and what credentials they have.

Avoid providers who refuse or are reluctant to work with your doctor. Be sure that the person is willing to refer clients to a conventional doctor when necessary.

Make sure you know the total cost of the treatment up front. Most of these therapies are not covered by your insurance.

What Red Flags Should I Watch For?

Promotion: Be cautious if products or providers are promoted through telemarketers, direct mailings, infomercials, ads disguised as valid news articles, or ads in the back of magazines.

Big claims: If a provider or product claims to be a "cure" for MS or makes other outrageous claims, be cautious.

Source: Be wary if the product is only being offered through one manufacturer.

Ingredients: Make sure all of the active ingredients are listed. Do not trust "secret formulas."

Testimonials: You’ll usually only hear from people who are satisfied with the product, so beware, especially if you see or hear "paid endorsement" with their comments. Also, watch for testimonials by people who are only listed by initials, locations, or first names.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on April 13, 2014
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