(RxWiki News) Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies cover a wide range of treatments, including music therapy and horseback riding. New guidelines suggest only a few actually work for those with MS.
The American Academy of Neurology said there was little evidence that nonconventional treatments used in conjunction with physician approved treatments or on their own were effective in treating the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS).
The guidelines acknowledged that CAM therapies consisting of oral cannabis, or medical marijuana pills, and oral medical marijuana spray may ease patients' reported symptoms of spasticity, pain related to spasticity and frequent urination in MS.
Spasticity is a condition in which muscles continuously tighten and can interfere with even simple motions like walking or speech.
The guidelines stated that there was inadequate evidence that smoking marijuana is helpful in treating symptoms of MS.
"Tell your doctor about all medications and treatments you are using."
This research was led by Vijayshree Yadav, MD, MCR, with Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
Dr. Yadav and colleagues performed an in-depth review of cannabis studies on spasticity and pain related to spasticity through a search of studies and articles ranging from March 1970 through September 2013.
According to the new guidelines, CAM therapies are usually not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and their safety is an unknown.
The researchers found that some forms of medical marijuana may help reduce spasticity symptoms, pain and frequent urination but not loss of bladder control when taken in pill or oral spray form only.
The authors of the guidelines noted that the long-term safety of medical marijuana use in pill and oral spray is still unknown because the limited number of studies performed are usually short, lasting just six to 15 weeks.
In addition, the authors said that the pill and oral spray forms (Sativex) of marijuana may have serious side effects, such as seizures, thinking and memory problems, dizziness and depression.
Doctors and patients must discuss possible side effects before considering marijuana in pill or oral spray form, according to the new guidelines.
The researchers found no evidence that many common CAM therapies, such as bee venom therapy or yoga, were effective in treating the symptoms or pain of MS.
The team found that gingko biloba and magnetic therapy may help reduce tiredness associated with MS.
"Using different CAM therapies is common in 33 to 80 percent of people with MS, particularly those who are female, have higher education levels and report poorer health," Dr. Yadav said in a press statement. "People with MS should let their doctors know what types of these therapies they are taking, or thinking about taking."
This study was limited by its inclusion of only MS patients in its search, and some potentially important adverse effects found in other studies related to the therapies reviewed did not show in the MS population.
These guidelines were published March 25 in Neurology.
The guidelines were funded by the American Academy of Neurology.
Dr. Yadav disclosed that he serves as a section editor for the American Academy of Neurology.