Multiple sclerosis occurs when, for unknown reasons, the body begins to destroy the myelin sheath or covering of the nerve cells of the body. As the condition progresses, the delivery of information being sent from the brain to the rest of the body becomes compromised.
The onset of symptoms often begins with a loss of sensitivity or a tingling sensation in the limbs. A particular characteristic of this condition is an electrical sensation running down the back when the neck is flexed.
As the disease progresses, other parts of the body gradually become affected. Sufferers can experience a wide range of symptoms ranging from respiratory problems to impairments in speech, balance, coordination and sexual function.
As with many other chronic diseases, patients often experience sudden acute episodes when their condition dramatically deteriorates, alternating with unexplained short periods of remission where the symptoms almost totally disappear. Since the worst attacks often occur during spring and summer, it is now being assumed that an increase in heat could be a factor.
In my earlier article, I mentioned that sufferers predominantly originate from the colder parts of the globe. In fact, in tropical countries, the incidence of multiple sclerosis totally disappears. Researchers are now investigating whether increased exposure to sunlight and Vitamin D may have a protective effect on those living nearer the Equator.
While it is not classified as a hereditary disease, there is a genetic component since those who have family members with the disease are more likely to be affected than others. Could it be that sufferers are afflicted because for generations their ancestors were unaccustomed to unseasonal heat? Or is the disease lying dormant until their body is weakened by a pathological attack?
It is a theory that gains new ground when we turn our attention to the field of Oriental medicine. The American author and Oriental practitioner Skya Abbate mentions that when this autoimmune disease first appeared in China over 30 years ago, the stress of modern lifestyles and the increase in pollution levels were deemed to be causative factors.
Then, the Chinese medical community began to notice that different types of fever seemed to aggravate the patient's condition, and it was deduced that a form of deficiency heat build up in the body could be the culprit, although the effect of long term stress on immunity was probably an aggravating factor.
In Oriental medicine, MS is now identified as a "flacidity syndrome", a body dysfunction leading to atrophy of the muscles and the flesh.
There are several different classifications for this condition. It can be identified as a Lung heat and fluid deficiency pattern caused by an epidemic febrile disease. In that case, acupuncture local points along the spinal cords are selected according to which spinal nerves are affected. In addition, specific points on the Lung channels are stimulated to strengthen the patient's immune system.
In contrast, when the pain is located in the lower back and knees and the patient complains of excess urination, poor memory and low sexual drive, the Kidney organ and channels become the main focus of treatment.
According to Chinese medical theory, the onset of pain in the body can be the consequence of a blockage of Qi (energy), or blood in the channels. The quality of the pain determines the diagnosis and the methods of treatment adopted. A mild pain or general discomfort around a wide area will be classified and treated as a Qi stagnation pattern, while a localised, more severe, stabbing kind of pain as experienced during an acute attack will be diagnosed as a blockage in the blood circulation into the area.
According to Skya Abbate, while no form of medicine can claim to be able to fully cure this disease, Traditional Chinese Medicine can offer a more than 40 percent improvement in symptoms. The treatment protocol includes regular acupuncture treatments, Chinese herbal medicine, which is now available in powder or capsule form, and a regular exercise program.
In some cases, this form of treatment can bring the patient to the stage of long term remission where the symptoms almost totally disappear for weeks or months at a time. In others, the decrease in pain is more modest, but significant enough to improve their quality of life and greatly reduce the amount of medication required.
In addition to these regular treatments, lifestyle changes including appropriate diet, gentle daily exercise and stress reduction techniques like meditation or yoga can make an enormous difference.
In the meantime, Western medicine is actively researching a cure, so there is real hope that the worst days of MS could very soon be finally behind us.
Olivier Lejus MHSc.(TCM), BHSc.(Acup.) is an accredited acupuncturist practising in Sydney
Read Part One of Olivier's examination of traditional treatments for this disease in "Automimmune Attack" (NOVA, March 2013, Vol 20 No 1)
Olivier Lejus BHSc.MHSc. is a registered acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist practising in Sydney. A former casual university lecturer and tutor in Oriental medicine with over 15 years experience in clinical practice, Olivier specialises in Japanese- style acupuncture for the treatment of male and female infertility, migraine, pain, and insomnia.www.olejusacupuncture.com