By Professor George Jelinek
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Additional resources for Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis: An Evidence-Based Guide to Recovery
We learnt that when patients say they have been sick for a year, to ask what happened a year ago; when symptoms are sometimes baffling, to ask what else is happening in the patient’s life; when therapies fail, to ask if there may be a reason why the patient needs to remain sick. The lessons have stayed with me throughout my career. The emergency department may seem a strange place to practise such medicine, but I have lost count of the number of times a patient has come in with chest pain only to go home with a referral to a clinical psychologist.
The key is to stop the disease progressing. Much scientific endeavour still focuses on healing damaged nerves, on remyelination. But realistically, we have some time to wait yet before these therapies may be available. What we do have right now are therapies which have either been ‘proven’ or hypothesised to slow the progression of MS. Nutrition, sunlight, meditation, exercise, positivity. They are all natural healers. We also have powerful drugs if these fail, or to use in conjunction. We now have real hope.
This latter group, receiving the placebo or previously known effective treatment, is the control group. The results of therapy for the treatment group are compared against what happens to patients in the control group. This is done principally because people taking a therapy for some disease often get some benefit just because they feel that the therapy must be doing them some good (this is known as ‘the placebo response’). By using a control group taking just an inactive placebo against which to compare those taking the active drug, this effect can be accounted for.