Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the protective covering (called “myelin”) around its nerves. Myelin allows nerves to communicate with one another quickly and efficiently. When myelin is broken down, communication between nerve cells also breaks down, leading to a wide variety of symptoms. The most common symptoms of MS are:
Numbness, weakness, or tingling in the limbs
Loss of coordination
Partial or complete loss of vision in one eye
Double vision or blurred vision
Multiple sclerosis can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms often “come and go,” with the patient experiencing remissions that can last anywhere from days to years. However, even when in remission, a patient is still considered to have the disease.
Western medicine has developed numerous therapies that have the potential to partially or completely reduce many of the symptoms associated with MS. These include steriods, beta interferons, muscle relaxers, etc. Unfortunately, as with almost any drug, all of these treatments have the potential for side effects. Therefore, more and more MS patients are seeking alternative treatments to help manage their condition. As this study shows, acupuncture is one such effective option.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, MS often presents initially as an obstruction in the channels/meridians (see video). This can be due to phlegm, dampness, and sometimes heat. As the disease progresses, the body’s qi and blood systems become depleted, leading to symptoms such as fatigue and frequent urination. Eventually, in some cases, chronic or continual MS symptoms can completely disrupt the body’s yin-yang balance. This is typically only seen in very late stage cases.
The goal of acupuncture is different at each stage of treatment. Initially, points are chosen to strengthen the Spleen (in order to help prevent more dampness from forming), resolve phlegm and open up the channels. Later, points are added to strengthen the body’s energies. This “strengthening” of the body is met with concern by some western practitioners, as they misconstrue strengthening the body’s energy with strengthening the immune system. In any autoimmune condition, western treatment tends to involve suppressing the immune system in order to relieve symptoms. However, while the immune system is made up of energy in TCM (namely wei qi), the two are not one and the same. It is possible to build up the body’s energy reserves without overstimulating the immune response, which is why acupuncture has been shown to be effective in other AI disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.
Acupuncture theory holds that that body already possesses all it needs to heal. By treating the underlying disharmony or weakness, the body’s healing and discriminatory processes can be unlocked and health can be returned.