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ACUPUNCTURE IS AN EFFECTIVE TREATMENT FOR PAIN AND OTHER MS SYMPTOMS
  1. JW Kerr Grieve,
  2. Shona Flucker,
  3. Jonathan O'Riordan
  1. Tayside MS Research Unit, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee, Scotland

    Abstract

    Introduction Complementary therapies are often sought by patients with MS despite a lack of available efficacy data. Acupuncture is one such therapy provided in Tayside through a nurse led service. We sought to evaluate its utility as a cost effective and efficacious treatment for this patient group.

    Methods 20 patients attending the clinic were invited to participate in the evaluation using a specific questionnaire. There were 25 questions concerning therapeutic indication and subjective benefits These included: pain relief, sleep pattern, mood improvement, energy levels, mobility issues, which participants were asked to scale. Analgesic medication use and side effects of acupuncture were assessed.

    Results All of the patients had sought acupuncture for the relief of pain, and had been attending the clinic for between 3 and 24 months. The majority were receiving acupuncture at six weekly intervals. 85% were female, aged 20 to 60 yrs, with a range of duration of diagnosis (1 to 29 yrs). All participants described some reduction in pain, with 9 patients scoring the level of pain relief as 8/10 or better. 18 patients experienced pain relief for four or more weeks. Improvement of sleep pattern, mood, energy levels and mobility was also subjectively improved, though less strikingly than pain. 9 experienced a temporary increase in pain. 55% of patients had managed to reduce their use of analgesics, and 3 stopped additional analgesia completely.

    Discussion This study demonstrates clear benefit from acupuncture as a treatment for pain in MS patients. This result may have been influenced by the patients' expectations of the potential benefits, as they had all sought acupuncture for pain relief. However, the sustained benefit of acupuncture as a treatment for pain was further confirmed by the fact that most patients managed to reduce their analgesia requirements, with some able to stop taking painkillers completely. There was some subjective improvement in mood, mobility and energy levels, and more than half felt their sleep pattern improved. Despite a transient increase in pain in some, the overall perceived benefit was favourable, with most patients persisting with treatment.

    NICE recommend that patients with MS should be encouraged to consider the possible benefits of complementary and alternative medicines, despite the paucity of high quality evidence. This study indicates that we can more confidently suggest acupuncture as a treatment for pain, and other MS related symptoms, and reconfirms the value of performing larger studies into the efficacy of specific complementary therapies in the future.

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