Chongsu Lee: Alternative therapies have a place

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Not a day goes by without reading about the latest miracle cure. In the last few weeks alone, I have been reading about new early tests for lung cancer, a robotic arm for multiple sclerosis patients and that sea water can even cure stomach cancer.

But the reality is that many of the new treatments we read about often take years to get to patients. Some won’t get there at all.

However our fear of illnesses, and faith in science, seems to fuel a constant stream of good news stories about the drugs industry.

In my field of work, providing a physiotherapy clinic to patients with MS, I and my patients understand the difficult reality of living with a lifelong health condition. It’s no wonder we are all seeking a cure – the symptoms of MS are debilitating and can include muscle weakness and problems with mobility and balance.

But while Edinburgh rightly enjoys a global reputation for its research into neurodegenerative conditions – not least supported by JK Rowling at the Anne Rowling Clinic – it is important to still consider the valuable benefits that non-drug treatments using alternative therapies and self-care can provide.

Just last week the MS Society canvassed patients, asking them the top ten research questions they want answered. Yes, some of the responses were predictable. Finding out how this disease can be prevented, and whether aggressive drug regimes can help delay its progression are all top research priorities and millions will be ploughed into finding the answers. I hope they do.

But I was also encouraged to see that in the top ten of research priorities for patients with MS was more research into alternative therapies such as physiotherapy, to establish how effective they can be in reducing patients’ disabilities.

As a chartered physiotherapist I never offer to cure. There currently is no cure for MS. But small things can and do help. Getting proper rest and sleep, eating well and exercising are among the small, everyday things we can all do to try to live better lives.

It’s good news that alternative therapies as being taken so seriously, because when it comes to helping patients on a day to day basis, they might not attract the headlines that miracle drug cures do, but they can help people continue to lead as normal a life as possible.

• Chongsu Lee is a chartered and state registered physiotherapist specialising in MS therapies at the OPOINTONE Clinic Edinburgh.