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Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence

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Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Whole Health

The use of complementary medicine and alternative medicine (CAM) is common in MS. It includes approaches to MS that are not generally considered a part of conventional medicine. These approaches include dietary supplements, yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, meditation, and other mind/body medicine. In the US, 38% of adults use CAM, while 80% of people with MS report using CAM.

The whole health model is a holistic look at the many areas of life that can affect your health — your work environment, relationships, diet, sleep patterns, and more.

What is complementary and alternative medicine?

When the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviews and approves the safety and effectiveness of a drug or device, it becomes a part of conventional medicine. Complementary means using a non-mainstream practice together with conventional medicine. Alternative means using non-mainstream practices in place of conventional medicine. For instance, using an herb to manage your MS alone would be alternative. Using an herb together with an MS disease-modifying drug would be complementary. Bringing conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way is known as “integrative” health care.

The VA supports the use of an integrative healthcare approach that combines CAM with conventional medicine. The VA continues to research safety and effectiveness of CAM in the treatment of MS and other neurologic disorders, with the goal of providing the best comprehensive care to our Veterans.

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