Although many people have reported positive experiences with alternative treatments, you need to be a wise consumer. When choosing an alternative therapy, ask these questions:
• Is there any evidence that it is harmful?
• Is there any evidence that it is helpful?
• Is it too expensive for my budget?
• Is it too difficult to access?
• Is there a potential negative interaction with any of my current medications?
In addition, the following guidelines can be helpful:
• Beware of alternative therapies that make "hard to believe" claims or are supported by pages of testimonials from users. The old adage, "If it sounds too good to be true, it generally is" holds true here. As Ellen Burstein MacFarlane pointed out, all human beings, no matter how strong and independent they normally are, become vulnerable to manipulation or fraud when they are faced with a crisis such as a diagnosis of MS or a worsening condition. At those times when people want to believe something, they are more vulnerable and, therefore, need to be skeptical.
• Conduct research. When choosing an alternative therapy practitioner, investigate the person's background, training, credentials, and specific area of expertise. Think of your doctor or other practitioner not as an authority figure, but as someone you want to have on your team.
• Ask questions. Find someone with whom you feel comfortable asking whatever questions are on your mind and who takes the time to give you truthful and thorough answers. If you are considering an alternative practitioner, ask how this person feels about combining alternative and traditional treatments. Be suspicious if his or her advice is to abandon traditional treatments. Choose a physician who is comfortable with your use of CAM and who will work with you in your choices.
• Interview several potential practitioners before making your decision. Be wary of practitioners who tell you not to listen to people who report negative experiences, or who make you feel as if you have a negative attitude if you ask questions. Asking questions is a sign that you are in charge of your life. You have a right to be fully informed!
• Get information from as many sources as possible. Don't rely solely on the practitioner whose treatment you are seeking or on the clients he or she tells you to call. If possible, seek out on your own people who have undergone treatment with this particular practitioner. Speak with people who have had positive experiences, as well as people who have had negative experiences. In this way, you can get a balanced view of the advantages and disadvantages of the treatment and a particular practitioner.
• Talk with family members and friends. In addition to discussing alternative treatments with your doctor, talk to family members or trusted friends. Get their opinions concerning the treatments and the practitioners—both traditional and alternative—that you are considering. • Remember that you have choices. If any doctor or health practitioner claims that he or she is the only one who can help you, run in the other direction!
Although there is no cure for MS, there are many safe and effective ways to improve the quality of your life and enhance your overall wellness.
For additional resources, please see Appendix A.
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