Integrative medicine and MS

Managing multiple sclerosis symptoms with a variety of treatments

Integrative medicine for multiple sclerosis (MS) may offer relief when used with disease modifying drugs (DMD). Sometimes known as integrative health, or complementary and/or alternative medicine, integrative medicine includes techniques that have not been traditionally part of conventional Western medicine. In many cases, these therapies are being successfully combined with conventional medicine.

Integrative medicine:

  • Uses evidence-based conventional, lifestyle and alternative medicine
  • Encourages a supportive clinician-patient relationship
  • Manages and treats disease while maintaining the health of the whole person

Can integrative medicine help with MS?

The short answer is yes, according to Melissa Schellenberger, APRN, nurse practitioner with Norton Neuroscience Institute Hussung Family Multiple Sclerosis Center.

While there is no cure for MS, “There is significant research to back up the benefits of integrative medicine for MS patients,” she said.

Connect with our Multiple Sclerosis Patient Support

The Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Center offers support for patients living with MS including classes and programs to help with MS symptoms, disability counseling and a designated nurse navigator to assist with your journey.

Learn more

As a follower of Allen Bowling, M.D., Ph.D., a pioneer in integrative medicine for MS, Melissa guides patients through a variety of treatments, techniques and practices to help change their experience with MS.

What techniques are used in integrative medicine?

According to Melissa, one of the most important things you can do for your overall health — and perhaps one of the easiest — is get enough sleep.

“Good sleep is so important to so many aspects of our health,” she said. “It affects everything from mood and pain to weight gain and appetite.”

Melissa also advocates for the benefits of exercise and physical therapy.

Knowing your MS triggers can help reduce worsening symptoms or relapses

“I often refer people to our physical therapy team,” she said. “There are really wonderful benefits from those exercises.”

Regular exercise in whatever form you like is her top recommendation. Another focus for Melissa is emotional well-being and mental health.

“MS and mental health issues go hand in hand,” she said. “We see a lot of depression and anxiety in MS patients. It is important to have a mental health plan in place.”

There are many things Melissa might try with a patient, including a variety of the following:

  • Lifestyle changes: Encouraging the patient to focus on sleep, nutrition, exercise and mental health, and to evaluate the use of alcohol and tobacco
  • Managing symptoms with: acupuncture, massage, aromatherapy, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, reflexology, herbs, Ayurveda, biofeedback, chiropractic medicine, being in nature
  • Preventing relapses, managing other diseases that might affect MS and improving overall health
  • Using disease-modifying drugs (DMD) to change the disease itself, instead of the symptoms

Melissa cautions patients against using many supplements.

“There are maybe 200 supplements that are possibly harmful for MS patients. These substances can interfere with the immune system,” she said.

Mindfulness and MS- On demand video

The practice of mindfulness has been found to have benefits for those living with Multiple Sclerosis.  View video to learn more about the practice and tips on how to incorporate into your day.

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