Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the myelin sheaths that surround and protect the nerves in the central nervous system, resulting in damage to the brain and spinal cord.
Symptoms differ greatly depending on where the myelin sheath of the nerves is attacked. In general symptom include numbness, tingling, and weakness, electric shock sensations (especially in the neck and when bending the neck), tremors, lack of coordination, and an unsteady gate. Vision problems are common and include partial or complete loss of vision, often in one eye at a time, double vision and blurry vision.
MS can relapse and remit over the course of the disease. For many patients this is common, with new symptoms emerging with each recurrence.
As with all autoimmune disease, no one knows exactly what causes MS, but it appears that a combination of genetic predisposition and triggering factors contribute to the disease's expression. Risk factors are:
Age Can occur at any age, but usually between 16 and 55.
Sex Women are 2ce to 3 times as likely to have relapse/remission of MS
Family predisposition Patients are more likely to develop MS if a parent or sibling has had it.
Infections Especially Epstein-Barr
Race People of northern European descent are at highest risk. Lowest risk populations are Asian, African, and Native American.
Climate More common in temperate climates including the US, Canada, New Zealand, southeastern Australia, and Europe.
Vitamin D Low levels of vitamin D and low exposure to sunlight increase risk.
Other autoimmune diseases Especially type 1 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.
Smoking People who smoke who have an initial round of symptoms are more likely than non-smokers to develop a second event, resulting in relapse/remit MS.
Diagnosis and treatment
Here's a fun thing to know: there is no definitive test for MS. Instead, western medicine uses blood tests, spinal taps (lumbar punctures), MRI's, and more to rule out other diseases before giving a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
There is no cure, but western medicine offers corticosteroids and other pharmaceutical treatments, plasma exchanges, and various forms of physical therapy.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, MS is, in the broadest sense a combination of Wei flaccidity syndromes and Bi syndromes. Chinese medicine theorizes that MS is caused by an invasion of exterior pathogens such as dampness in patients with weak Spleen Qi (causing muscle weakness and the initial stages of MS) and/or a combination of Liver/Kidney deficiency (affecting tendons and bones, which are later stages of MS and can cause the tremors and paralysis). Blood deficiency and interior wind are also targeted with Chinese medicine as they are responsible for the numbness and tingling.
Encourage patients toward a healthier lifestyle and diet to help eliminate dampness in the channels, tonify the Spleen, Liver, and Kidney. MS patients who practice Qigong (Eight Brocades and Sheng Zhen Healing Qigong find great benefit in terms of symptom control. One of my patients reported that with stress management and daily practice of Healing Qigong her symptoms are largely controlled and have been for many years.
Acupuncture protocol for multiple sclerosis
This is a basic protocol. You can add points intelligently thinking in terms of channel association and point function to customize this prescription.
Bilateral or midline:
Yintang, Du 20
Ki 1, Ki 3, Ki 5
Huo Ying, Huo Zhu, Lv 6* *Master Tung's Lv 6 is needled next to the tibia on the Spleen channel rather than on the bone itself. Use your fingernail to palpate and slide the needle right next to the bone.
Yintang and Du 20 This directs energy up to the brain, sending more Blood and Qi to the central nervous system. You could think of these as guiding points for the overall energy generated by the point prescription.
Shang Liu is also called the Upper Tumor point. Even though the word "tumor" in the name, the point combination does more than that. It moves a lot of energy up to the head and has a very positive effect on the brain. If you think of the leg as a microsystem for the body, the location of this point mirrors the head and the brain. The fact that it is on the calcaneal bone strengthens the association with the Kidney channel, marrow and the brain.
Kidney 1, 3, and 5 target the brain and nervous system for similar reasons listed in Shang Liu above, affecting the Kidney channel, marrow, and the brain.
Huo Ying, Huo Zhu, and Liver 6 are all Liver channel points which help to move blood. They also help calm the Liver channel and control Liver Yang to help with tremors.
Xia San Huang is a three point combination on the Spleen meridian. This combination contains the Shen Guan point which is Kidney tonifying and regulating and also has similar functions to Spleen 9 to help with damp. Stomach 36 is the He Sea and Lower He Sea of the Stomach channel. This combination of Spleen and Stomach channel points tonifies the Earth element to help generate more Qi and more Blood. St 37 is the Lower He Sea of the Large Intestine meridian and helps eliminate toxins from the body. The Earth element is always central to disease!
Wai San Guan, the Other Three Passes, are on the Gallbladder channel and help control movement and pain.
Basic herbal prescriptions include Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin to help with paralysis and tremors, Ba Zhen Tang to tonify Blood, and Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang to tonify the middle jiao. You might also consider Liu Jun Zi Tang if there is significant damp and phlegm.