Multiple Sclerosis (MS) affects the way the brain communicates with other parts of the body through the central nervous system (CNS). In more severe cases, plaques (areas of inflammation in the white matter of the CNS) damage the myelin of the nerves in the CNS which slows down and inhibits the smooth transmission of messages between the brain and body. If the brain cannot effectively and efficiently tell the body what to do, some of the body’s functions may be impacted. Some of the common symptoms are limbs that become weak or develop spasticity, partial or complete loss of vision, urine incontinence and many more since the effects depend on where in the CNS the myelin has been damaged. The severity of MS can vary wildly as some patients develop very mild symptoms while other experience moderate impairment to the worst cases which can stop patients from being able to walk, talk or write.

 

What does western medicine say about MS?

In western medicine MS is diagnosed after medical imaging and lab tests confirm it after a patient presents with signs and symptoms such as those mentioned above. The four types of MS are relapsing-remitting MS (patients have alternating periods of worsening symptoms and periods of recovery from symptoms), clinically isolated syndrome (diagnosed after the first episode of MS like signs and symptoms – patients may or may not go on to develop MS), primary progressive MS (patient’s signs and symptoms get worse as time goes on without early periods of “recovery”) and secondary progressive MS (sometimes follows relapsing-remitting MS as patient’s symptoms continue to worsen and periods of “recovery” stop).
There is no known cure for MS so western medicine focusses on preventing new attacks, returning function following an attack and/or slowing the progression of MS. Corticosteroids are often used during attacks of MS where symptoms are present and other medications such as monoclonal-antibodies, immunomodulators and anthracenediones among others are used to manage symptoms or slow progression.

 

What does Chinese Medicine say about MS?

As we know, Chinese Medicine has a different way of looking at disease and some of the terminology can get a bit confusing if you have a western back ground so please – if you have any questions reach out:
@rebalancechinese
eve@rebalancetcm.com
www.rebalancetcm.com/bookings

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis has 5 possible syndromes we can address:

  1. Qi and Blood deficiency
  • Seen in the remission stages of MS (after worsening/progression of symptoms drains qi and blood).
  • Muscles, tendons, and bones are not properly nourished.
  • Flaccid paralytic limbs.
  • Loss of balance, fatigue and/or weakness of the limbs may be present.
  • Other qi and blood deficiency indicators: reduced appetite, loose stools, pain in the abdomen, dizziness, slippery pulse, swollen tongue.
  1. Invasion of damp-heat
  • Seen in the acute stages of MS.
  • Damp-heat obstructs the meridians.
  • Flaccid paralytic limbs.
  • Numbness/tingling, heavy sensations in the limbs and/or muscle weakness may be present.
  • Other damp-heat indicators: Swelling in the lower limbs, constipation, dark urine, slippery pulse, yellow tongue coat (sometimes greasy).
  1. Liver and Kidney Yin deficiency
  • Seen in the remission stages of MS (after worsening/progression of symptoms drains qi and blood).
  • Muscles, tendons, and bones are not properly moistened.
  • Flaccid paralytic limbs.
  • Dizziness, blurry vision and/or weakness of the limbs may be present.
  • Other liver and kidney yin deficiency indicators: numbness, insomnia, knee weakness, lower back pain, dry mouth, wiry pulse, red tongue with scanty coat.
  1. Blood stagnation
  • Seen in the acute stages of MS.
  • Blood stagnates in the meridians.
  • Rigid paralytic limbs.
  • Dizziness/vertigo and/or limb weakness may be present.
  • Other blood stagnation indicators: Sharp pain, some menstrual problems, bowel and/or urine incontinence, wiry pulse, purple tongue body.
  1. Kidney Yang deficiency
  • Seen in the remission stages of MS (after worsening/progression of symptoms drains qi and blood).
  • Muscles, tendons, and bones are not properly strengthened.
  • Flaccid paralytic limbs.
  • Limb weakness, fatigue and/or frequent urination/urgency may be present.
  • Other kidney yang deficiency indicators: Lower back pain/weakness, cold extremities, diarrhoea, weak pulse, pale tongue with a white coat.

 

What Chinese Medicine treatments are used in cases of MS?

  1. Meridian Acupuncture
  • Acupuncture points on the meridians are used (see our meridian blog here: INSERT LINK).
  • Acupuncture points are stimulated with needles.
  • Stimulating these areas is used to treat one or more of the syndromes above.
  • Recommended once per week.
  1. Scalp Acupuncture
  • Points based on the scalp somatotopic system
  • Points are stimulated with needles.
  • Stimulating these reflex areas influences the cerebral cortex, thalamus and cerebellum among other endocrine and CNS areas.
  • Recommended once per week.
  1. Herbal medicines
  • No needles.
  • Herbs can be selected on an individualised basis and account for differences in symptoms.
  • Herbs can be taken every day.
  • Herbs can be used in the treatment of the above syndromes and/or to have specific effects on the organs/systems of the body.

These treatments can be used alongside western medicine interventions. You should always keep your healthcare team informed of the different treatments you are receiving.

 

References:

Kuoch, D. J. (2011). Acupuncture Desk Reference (2nd ed.). Acumedwest Inc.

Wang, T. (2021). Acupuncture for Brain: Treatment for Neurological and Psychologic Disorders. Springer.