By Dr. Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D., O.M.D (China)
too long ago, a patient visited my office with lower back pain along
with a tingling sensation in his left leg. He had seen several doctors
and had a number of X-rays and MRIs to reveal a moderate bulging of the
disk between lumbar vertebrae 4 and 5. When I first saw him he had been
taking different pain medications, while undergoing physical therapy.
However, he was feeling depressed and frustrated as nothing seemed to be
helping. In fact, his condition had gradually worsened as he began to
experience numbness and weakness in his left leg. I noticed he had a
tendency to roll his eyes and was unstable on his feet, especially when
walking. Upon further questioning, I discovered that he had been
experiencing periodic bouts of blurry vision and I noticed that he
tended to lean towards his left side while walking. These symptoms,
along with a hyperactive reflex response, made me almost certain his
condition was something much more serious. My hunch was that it was
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) - a disease involving the central nerve system.
So, I immediately referred him to a neurologist for further testing. Two
weeks later, he returned with a confirmed diagnosis of MS.
Unfortunately, this patient is just one of several thousand new patients
diagnosed with MS every year in the United States.
What causes MS?
The cause of MS is relatively unknown. It is thought to be an autoimmune
disease that is associated with certain viruses and environmental
contaminants. The symptoms of MS are varied and caused by the immune
system attacking the protective sheath (myelin) surrounding nerves
within the central nervous system. The damage caused by the attacks
disrupts the transmission of nervous responses. Often the first signs of
MS are sensations of numbness or tingling in the legs or arms
accompanied by muscle weakness, spasticity and dizziness.
How do we treat MS?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a similar condition to MS has been
documented in ancient texts. So, acupuncture and Traditional Chinese
Medicine have been involved in the treatment of MS-like symptoms for
over 2,000 years. The results of treatment vary depending on the
severity and progression of the disease. In our experience, acupuncture
and herbs may decrease the side effects of many of the medications and
assist patients to balance their lives and stabilize and halt the
progress of the disease.
In my office, we have seen an increasing number of MS patients over the
past ten years. We have observed that patients who have regular
acupuncture treatments and take herbs, while making significant
lifestyle changes, have often managed to stabilize and even slow the
progression of the disease. In clinical studies and surveys conducted
within the US, pain, spasticity, numbness, and tingling are among the
many symptoms reported to be improved due to acupuncture treatments. In
our experience, additional symptoms improve such as fatigue, depression,
anxiety, and bowel or bladder function when using both acupuncture and