Treatment options for multiple sclerosis (MS) have enlarged tremendously over the last years. Nonetheless, lots of patients look for alternative treatment options. The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is widespread in MS, however, its scientific investigation is limited so far. The aim of the study is to analyse clinical and demographical differences of MS patients in dependency of their CAM utilization as coping strategy.
A total of 254 patients with a clinically definite MS were examined in a semistructured interview. Additional standardized questionnaires were used to measure different aspects of coping with illness. All patients underwent neurological examination.
About 206 of all enrolled patients are CAM users (81.1%). They have a longer disease duration (8.3 years vs 7.3 years, P = 0.028) and show higher disability (median EDSS 4.0 vs 2.0, P < 0.001) than nonusers. CAM users differed significantly from nonusers in their coping behavior (P = 0.035). Users are brooding more heavily over the disease, looking for more information about MS, and are looking for a sense of their disease in religion more often than nonusers. CAM users are at a higher risk of depression. Almost twothirds of CAM users (57.6%) reported positive effects on the wellbeing of their state of health.
Coping behavior differs significantly between CAM users and nonusers. CAM utilization is associated with higher disability and depression. More than 80% of our cohort has used alternative or complementary methods. CAM utilization may mirror unmet needs in the treatment of MS.