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Autoimmune Diseases
Volume 2012, Article ID 841085, 13 pages
Research Article

Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine among People with Multiple Sclerosis in the Nordic Countries

1Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, 1014 Copenhagen, Denmark
2The Danish MS Society, 2500 Valby, Denmark
3NAFKAM, University of Tromsø, 9037 Tromsø, Norway
4Department of Neurology, Akershus University Hospital, 1474 Nordbyhagen, Norway
5Department of Neurology, University of Southern Jutland, 7100 Vejle, Denmark
6Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, 14186 Stockholm, Sweden

Received 27 July 2012; Revised 22 September 2012; Accepted 22 September 2012

Academic Editor: D. N. Bourdette

Copyright © 2012 L. Skovgaard et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Aims. The aim of the study was to describe and compare (1) the types and prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments used among individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the Nordic countries; (2) the types of conventional treatments besides disease-modifying medicine for MS that were used in combination with CAM treatments; (3) the types of symptoms/health issues addressed by use of CAM treatments. Methods. An internet-based questionnaire was used to collect data from 6455 members of the five Nordic MS societies. The response rates varied from 50.9% in Norway to 61.5% in Iceland. Results. A large range of CAM treatments were reported to be in use in all five Nordic countries. Supplements of vitamins and minerals, supplements of oils, special diet, acupuncture, and herbal medicine were among the CAM treatment modalities most commonly used. The prevalence of the overall use of CAM treatments within the last twelve months varied from 46.0% in Sweden to 58.9% in Iceland. CAM treatments were most often used in combination with conventional treatments. The conventional treatments that were most often combined with CAM treatment were prescription medication, physical therapy, and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. The proportion of CAM users who reported exclusive use of CAM (defined as use of no conventional treatments besides disease-modifying medicine for MS) varied from 9.5% in Finland to 18.4% in Norway. In all five Nordic countries, CAM treatments were most commonly used for nonspecific/preventative purposes such as strengthening the body in general, improving the body’s muscle strength, and improving well-being. CAM treatments were less often used for the purpose of improving specific symptoms such as body pain, problems with balance, and fatigue/lack of energy. Conclusions. A large range of CAM treatments were used by individuals with MS in all Nordic countries. The most commonly reported rationale for CAM treatment use focused on improving the general state of health. The overall pattern of CAM treatment use was similar across the five countries.