Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex autoimmune disease mediated by an immune response to central nervous system antigens. Modern immunomodulatory therapies, however, do not ameliorate many of the symptoms, such as pain and depression. Patients thus seek alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, although the benefits of such treatments have not been objectively evaluated. The present study was thus designed to evaluate the effect of the use of acupuncture in the alleviation of the symptoms of patients with MS.
Thirty-one patients with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis undergoing treatment with immunomodulators were randomly distributed into sex-stratified experimental and placebo groups in a patient- and evaluator-blind design; they received either true or sham electroacupuncture during regular visits to the doctor in the university hospital outpatient clinic. Standardized questionnaires were used to evaluate the effect of electroacupuncture on the quality of life of these patients. Initial and follow-up assessment included the evaluation of clinical status (Expanded Disability Status Scale), pain (Visual Analogue Scale) and quality of life (Functional Assessment of multiple Sclerosis) to ascertain the impact of electroacupuncture on the quality of life of these patients.
Electroacupuncture improved various aspects of quality of life, including a reduction in pain and depression. The self-report scales were more sensitive to improvement than was the more objective clinical measure.
This paper provides evidence that electroacupuncture can significantly improve the quality of life of such patients. The results suggest that the routine use of a self-report scale evaluating quality of life should be included in regular clinical evaluations in order to detect changes more rapidly.
Keywords: Multiple sclerosis, Electroacupuncture, Pain, Depression, Chinese traditional medicine, Symptoms, Quality of life, Randomised control trial, Expanded disability status scale