How can I tell which alternative therapies for multiple sclerosis (MS) are worth taking?

Alternative therapy can be helpful in many cases, but some treatments can be ineffective, costly, and even dangerous. The best way to evaluate your options is to become educated. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the treatment?
  • What does it involve?
  • How does it work?
  • Why 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, weigh your options and decide whether the benefits outweigh the risks. If you do decide to try an alternative or complementary treatment, make sure your health and pocketbook are protected. Here are some tips.

  • Do not take the claim at face value. Contact reliable organizations and discuss the therapy. Talk to others in a support group, your family, and friends. Although they may not always be supportive, they can help you make an educated, objective decision.
  • Discuss the therapy with your doctor. Make sure your doctor knows what therapy you are considering so he or she can discuss possible interactions or side effects with your current treatment. Your doctor can also provide you with information on other patients who may have tried the same therapy.
  • Talk to others who have used the therapy. Ask them what their experiences have been. Do not go solely on testimonials from the care provider or product manufacturer. Track down your own references and get their opinions.
  • Research the provider's background. Contact the Better Business Bureau and thoroughly research the background of the therapy provider. Determine how long they have been providing this therapy, what credentials they have, and what their philosophy of treatment is.
  • Avoid providers who refuse or are reluctant to work with your doctor. Be sure that the provider is willing to refer patients to a conventional doctor when necessary.
  • Make sure you know the total cost of the treatment upfront. Most of these therapies are not covered by your insurance.

What red flags should I watch out for when considering alternative/complementary therapies for multiple sclerosis (MS)?

  • 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 being offered through one manufacturer only.
  • Ingredients: Make sure all of the active ingredients are listed. Do not trust "secret formulas."
  • Testimonials: Testimonials are given only by those who are satisfied with the product, so beware, especially if the term "paid endorsement" is used. Also, be cautious if testimonials are given by people who are listed only by initials, locations, or first names.

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