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Chiropractic Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

Posted on April 13, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D.
Article written by
Amy Isler, RN

Many people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) have experienced pain relief from chiropractic therapy — a type of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapy. Although disease-modifying therapies are typically used as the primary defense against MS, they are not always fully efficient, and can even cause unwanted side effects. For this reason, many people with MS also turn to CAM therapies, such as chiropractic care, for relief from MS symptoms.

Research is limited as to the benefits of chiropractic therapy for people with MS, though there is anecdotal evidence that treatment can bring pain relief to those with the condition. “I know it works. I've been going to a chiropractor for over 30 years. He has helped me with pain, balance, and walking,” shared a member of MyMSTeam.

Before undergoing chiropractic therapy or any other new treatments, be sure to speak with your health care provider.

Overview of Chiropractic Therapy

Chiropractic care focuses on treating disorders of the neuromuscular and central nervous system through the manual adjustment or manipulation of the spine. The adjustment is meant to relieve pressure on the nerves and restore normal function. Chiropractic may help provide pain relief from lower back pain, neck pain, and headaches.

Although chiropractic care can’t directly treat MS or stop disease progression, it may help provide relief from pain and discomfort associated with MS, including back and hip pain caused by foot drop.

In using chiropractic adjustments to correct spinal misalignments, chiropractors believe they can reduce inflammation and help improve joint function, resulting in pain relief. People with MS who have received chiropractic care have also reported:

  • Elevated energy levels
  • Increased mobility
  • Less fatigue
  • Better endurance
  • Increased muscle control
  • Less pain
  • Boosted confidence and outlook

Effectiveness of Chiropractic Treatment

Plenty of testimonial evidence claims that chiropractic works as a complementary treatment to relieve pain and improve quality of life. For example, a MyMSTeam member stated, “I had a headache until my chiropractic adjustment. Now I’m feeling better.”

Notably, MyMSTeam members have shared mixed experiences with chiropractic treatments. “I did work with a chiropractor for probably two years and that worked somewhat,” a member shared, while another said that his wife finds pain relief from her “fancy massage chair” but hasn’t found relief from physical therapy or chiropractic treatments.

Due to a lack of clinical data, however, health care professionals are unable to promote the safety or usefulness of chiropractic care on people with MS.

Risks and Side Effects

Chiropractic treatment is typically safe as long as it is done by a licensed chiropractor. The risks of treatment are rare and can include herniated disk, compression of nerves, and stroke after neck manipulation.

As with any medical treatment, there are side effects to consider. The most common side effects reported after a chiropractic adjustment include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

Some MyMSTeam members have experienced discomfort following chiropractic treatments. “I’m fighting a bad headache and neck pain from a chiropractic adjustment last week. I sure hope it gets fixed today!” wrote one member.

Who Should Avoid Chiropractic Care?

Health experts recommend that people with the following underlying conditions avoid chiropractic treatment because of the risk of complications:

  • Severe osteoporosis
  • Cancer in the spine
  • Increased risk of stroke (especially vertebral artery dissection)
  • Bone abnormality in the upper neck
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Disk herniations
  • Conditions being treated with blood thinners

Everybody has a unique medical history, and not everyone responds to chiropractic care in the same way. Although you don’t need a doctor’s referral to receive chiropractic care, you should always consult with your physician or neurologist first to determine if this treatment option is right for you.

Insurance Coverage and Chiropractic Therapy

Chiropractic care is a common treatment in the U.S., and most major insurance plans help with the cost of a chiropractor — but there may be stipulations and restrictions, depending on your coverage. Among them:

  • You may need a referral from a doctor stating that the care is medically necessary.
  • You may have limits on how many treatments you may receive.
  • Some insurance requires you to use in-network or approved chiropractors.
  • Your doctor may need to create and follow an active treatment plan.
  • Coverage is sometimes limited only to short-term care and doesn’t extend to maintenance treatments.
  • You may have to meet a certain deductible before coverage begins.

Because health care plans vary, you should check with your insurance company directly before seeking treatment. Your doctor may be able to advocate for you to your insurance company if you are initially denied coverage.

If you decide to pay out of pocket for chiropractic treatment, costs can range from $30 to $200, depending on location and type of treatment. Many chiropractors give a complimentary initial consultation.

Other Alternative Therapies

Studies have shown that 60 percent of people diagnosed with MS use two or more methods of CAM to help treat MS symptoms. CAM is an umbrella term for a variety of alternative medicine therapies like chiropractic therapy, including:

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyMSTeam is the social network for people living with MS and their loved ones. By joining, you gain a community of more than 166,000 people who come together to share stories, experiences, and advice about life with MS.

Have you used chiropractic treatment for symptom relief? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation on MyMSTeam. Your story may help others figure out if chiropractic care is right for them.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D. is a neurology and pediatric specialist and treats disorders of the brain in children. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Amy Isler, RN is a registered nurse with over six years of experience as a credentialed school nurse. Learn more about her here.

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