As this study of electroacupuncture on RRMS patients has shown, the use of the technique does indeed improve QOL, which includes the general contentment of these patients, as well as family and social well-being. One of the most incapacitating aspects of the disease is the gradual loss of mobility with the advance of the disease . This study included two measures of this mobility, the EDSS, assessed by a neurologist, and the self-report of mobility subscale of the FAMS. Although the results of the EDSS showed a slightly reduced advance in the results of neurological damage caused by the disease for the patients receiving TEA, the difference between the two groups only approached significance. The results of the mobility subscale of the FAMS, however, showed a truly significant improvement in mobility in the eyes of the patients who had received the TEA. This discrepancy in values is not surprising, since the FAMS score is considerably more subjective, and patient self-impressions are generally not assessed by the EDSS. Furthermore, the latter measures overall performance, and changes on this level take some time to appear.
The degenerative nature of the disease means that actual performance will constantly worsen, and the reduction in mobility of the patients submitted to sham electroacupuncture was noticeable, even in the short six-month period evaluated. The degeneration of those receiving TEA, however, was held in abeyance.
On the other hand, the patient-evaluated QOL is more sensitive to short-term alterations, which would make it possible for the doctor to observe relevant changes in the state of the patient and modify treatment to improve the situation. It is, however, the EDSS which is generally adopted for the evaluation of the mobility of the patient with RRMS. Since the results of this test ignore the quality of the life of the patient, the addition of a test such as FAMS, which does measure it, could be of great benefit to the well-being of a patient.
The life of patients with RRMS tends to be a solitary one for various reasons, not the least of which is the frequent presence of pain, which affect some 29-86% of all patients . A large number of publications point out that patients with chronic pain suffer from reduced social adjustment and an increase in psychiatric morbidity [27–30]. Although pain is rarely considered in the clinical evaluation of RRMS, it does seem important to deal with such a potentially incapacitating aspect of the disease, especially since the results of this study show that it can be efficiently dealt with using electroacupuncture. These results are in agreement with those of previous studies which have demonstrated the analgesic effect of acupuncture, which is known to ameliorate the deregulation of sensory information in the processing of pain [31–36].
The stigmatization of those with RRMS also contributes to the isolation of these patients; this effect is enhanced by many of the symptoms of RRMS, especially depression, which has a strong negative impact on the life of patients . Depression occurs in as many as 60% of patients with multiple sclerosis, although it is independent of the disability inherent in the clinical course of the disease . Not only does depression lead to the isolation of patients from their friends and families, but, when chronic, can even lead to attempts at suicide [6, 39]. It can, however, be largely controlled. If the depressive state of a patient can be identified, some of the damage resulting from it can be ameliorated, if not prevented. This study, for example, has shown that electroacupuncture can improve the emotional well being of RRMS patients, with results visible after only three months, although this is not normally assessed in the routine evaluation of RRMS patients.