8 complementary therapies for multiple sclerosis

There are a host of complementary therapies out there to help!

Lots of complementary therapies can help with the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Not only are they often a lovely way to treat yourself and relax, but studies have found they can improve pain, fatigue, spasms and more. Here are eight to get started with.


Acupuncture involves the use of very fine sterile needles, which pierce the skin to reach an acupuncture point in the body. They are inserted very precisely and connect with the body’s ‘qi’, or energy. It is not painful, you just feel a small prick to the skin and maybe a dull ache for a few seconds when the point is reached.

For MS, acupuncture is commonly used to help relieve pain and tension, improve movement, sensation and manage the impact of spasticity. It may also help with managing bladder urgency, and studies have shown that for some people it can be a useful tool in the management of MS-related fatigue.

Visit www.acupuncture.org.uk

Action potential simulation therapy

APS therapy is a safe and effective drug-free symptom management system suitable for the treatment of both neuropathic and musculoskeletal pain. It is a type of micro-current therapy whereby an electrical current is transmitted through the human body via electrodes that make contact with the skin. The currents used are designed to mimic the electrical pulses that the body produces naturally. These are known as action potentials.

Action potentials are the change in electrical potential associated with the passage of an impulse along the membrane of a muscle cell or nerve cell. In cases of neuropathic pain, or improper nerve firing, such as with restless leg syndrome, applying waves of correct action potential frequencies seems to reduce the improper nerve impulses, reducing or completely alleviating pain or symptoms.

APS therapy is a way of reducing pain without using medication. During a small trial at the Bedford MS Therapy Centre, 57 per cent of participants reduced or discontinued analgesic medications as a result of the effects of the therapy. In addition, 78 per cent of participants reported a significant reduction in pain.

Aside from pain, other symptoms synonymous with MS that have reportedly been successfully treated using APS therapy include fatigue, insomnia, spasms and spasticity.

A good place to find out more about APS therapy is the Painfree Potential website, which provides information about relevant scientific studies and research, testimonials from people who have used APS therapy for pain relief, where to find an APS clinic, buying and hiring equipment and much more.

Visit www.painfreepotential.co.uk



This uses powerful, fragrant essential oils with massage to help you feel relaxed or energised. Essential oils are the essence of the plant, extracted from herbs, flowers, shrubs or trees. Each one is different with its own fragrance and therapeutic use. Some oils have anti-inflammatory properties, others bring about a feeling of relaxation, while some are stimulating.

An aromatherapy massage can help to relax the whole body, and for people with MS particularly it is thought to help improve sleep hygiene, reduce pain, offer support with the mobility of joints and muscles, and provide an improved sense of wellbeing.

More information

The International Federation of Aromatherapists (IFA) regulate and accredit standards in aromatherapy for practitioners. They can be contacted for further support in finding an accredited aromatherapist and their website also hosts a practitioner search facility.

Visit www.ifaroma.org/en_GB/home


This is an ancient practice by which a person learns to be present in the moment, allowing them to become more relaxed, and peaceful. It helps to slow the mind and encourages you to be kinder and gentler to yourself. Meditation encourages a gradual release of all thoughts and feelings. It is seen by researchers to be one of the most effective forms of stress reduction techniques and has been shown to relieve biological markers of stress.

The British School of Meditation provides training to people wishing to teach this form of therapy. Their website hosts a searchable database of accredited meditation teachers based within the UK.

Visit www.teaching-meditation.co.uk


This is one of the oldest known therapies and has been used for thousands of years to help ease stiffness in muscles and joints, relieve pain, improve blood and lymph circulation, and increase wellbeing. It can be used to stimulate the various systems of the body and can also help with posture, ease stress and release tension. It has been found that for people with MS, massage lowers anxiety, reduces pain, promotes relaxation and improves patient wellbeing. A recent review of previous studies also found that using massage as a complementary therapy helped to alleviate the impact of MS-related fatigue.


There is a growing body of evidence which shows that practising mindfulness can be beneficial to people affected by MS, particularly with regard to managing anxiety, stress and low mood. For example, one particular study found that people with MS reported improvements in emotional balance and brain processing speed after receiving just four weeks of mindfulness training. Practising mindfulness meditation has also been shown to help people with MS improve sleep quality, including managing the impact of insomnia.

It is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) that health professionals consider mindfulness as a way of treating MS-related fatigue and as a preventative practice for people with experience of recurrent depression.

The British Association for Mindfulness-based Approaches (BAMBA) is a professional body of mindfulness practitioners, teachers and training organisations.

Visit www.bamba.org.uk

Oxygen therapy

Oxygen therapy, also known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO), involves breathing 100 per cent pure oxygen through a mask whilst inside a pressurised metal chamber. The chamber is a sealed unit, usually large enough to seat six to eight people. Over the course of an hour it is filled with a higher concentration of oxygen than normal air under pressure. As you breathe, the oxygen saturates your blood and tissues.

While there is a lack of scientific evidence to underpin the efficacy of oxygen therapy for the treatment of MS and related symptoms, anecdotally people with MS have reported improvements in fatigue levels and bladder problems, post-therapy.

Oxygen therapy is available in many neuro therapy centres. Treatment requires regular attendance at the centre, usually three to four times per week initially.


The main theory of this therapy is that there are reflex points all over the feet, and also on your hands and ears, that correspond with different areas of the body. Working these points can help to bring balance to the body, reduce tensions and improve sleep, something that is often much needed if you have MS.

As with many other complementary therapies, scientific evidence which underpins the efficacy of reflexology in managing MS and its symptoms is limited. That said, over the past two decades a number of small-scale studies have returned positive results. In 2003, a study involved 53 people with MS receiving an 11 week-long course of treatment, with a view to understanding its impact in managing bladder issues, muscle strength, spasticity and sensory disturbances. The study concluded that given the improvements reported by participants after receiving the course of treatment, reflexology can be influential in managing these symptoms.

More recently studies have found that reflexology can also help with the management of constipation, pain, fatigue and improve quality of life for people with MS.

Ultimately a reflexology session helps to nurture deep relaxation, which is much needed when you live with the uncertainties of a long-term health condition such as MS.

For more information and research on complementary therapies for MS, download our newly revised Complementary and other therapies Choices booklet!