A new case series suggests that chiropractic care could ease musculoskeletal pain in people with multiple sclerosis.
Multiple sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disease that damages the central nervous system. Symptoms vary based on the individual but often included muscle weakness, stiffness, cognitive difficulties, urinary problems, blurred vision, numbness, and tingling. New symptoms often occur in “attacks” or develop slowly over time.
Many patients with MS also suffer from musculoskeletal pain which is believed to be caused by upper motor neuron lesions, muscle weakness and spasticity, decreased mobility, gait problems, and postural abnormalities. As a chronic condition, MS has no cure, but treatments can help to manage and reduce symptoms.
Research shows that chiropractic can effectively reduce musculoskeletal conditions like back, joint, and neck pain, which are frequently experienced by MS patients. Although there are no clinical trials on chiropractic for MS, between 25-54% of MS patients report using chiropractic treatments.
In a new report published in Clinical Chiropractic, researchers documented the role of chiropractic care in helping two women with MS. The first patient was a 64-year old woman with relapsing remitting MS who presented with back pain. She said it was painful to bend forward while washing floors or vacuuming, and was frustrated by her inability to garden and do other leisure activities. The woman was also being co-managed by a massage therapist, family physician, and internal medicine specialist.
The woman was treated once a week for a month with spinal adjustments of the lumbar spine and left sacroiliac joint, soft-tissue therapy, stretching and exercises, and education on proper posture and lifting techniques. Now she visits the chiropractor once a month. She reports that her pain and muscles tightness are significantly decreased and that she is able to participate in normal activities despite her MS symptoms.
The other patient was a 26-year old woman with MS who complained of mild to moderate pain in the thoracic and lumbar spine. She was treated with soft-tissue therapy, spinal adjustments, massage, interferential current, and stretching. After six weeks of treatment, she said her pain had significantly improved and was discharged from treatment. However, her pain worsened upon withdrawal of treatment. She then resumed treatment every ten days for eight weeks. After that, her back pain dropped to 1 out of 10 and her neck pain decreased to 2 out of 10. She continued receiving maintenance treatments every three weeks for another 12 weeks.
“Chiropractors are in a unique position to provide conservative care as part of a multidisciplinary team,” the researchers wrote. Relying on these conservative treatments could reduce the risks involved in taking multiple medications, and limit the number of side effects associated with medication use.
The researchers pointed out that more studies are needed to understand the mechanisms underlying chiropractic adjustments in MS. However these case studies, combined with the high utilization of chiropractic among MS patients, suggests that chiropractic could play a crucial role in the successful management of multiple sclerosis.
Southerst D, et al. Pain and pain-related disability in patients with multiple scleorosis: A case series of two patients treated with chiropractic management. Clinical Chiropractic 2012; 15: 169-175.