Role for Complementary and Alternative Treatments in Epilepsy
Complementary and alternative medicine CAM has become much in vogue, and CAM practitioners have increased in tandem with this. The trend of using CAM for treating epilepsy does not differ from that in other medical conditions, with nearly one half of patients using CAM. In this article we review the major complementary and alternative medicines used for treatment of epilepsy.
On the other hand, some people who have tried complementary treatments have felt that these have helped their epilepsy and improved their quality of life. Certainly, reducing stress can reduce seizures in some people, and complementary therapies that include stress-reduction techniques can help some people better control their seizures. Furthermore, the greater involvement of the person with epilepsy in his or her own seizure management through these therapies can be positive in itself.
The person with epilepsy who finds that they have more seizures when under stress may benefit from learning stress management and relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation and deep diaphragmatic breathing. Some people have found that yoga or meditation helps them prevent stress-induced seizures and improves their quality of life.
Acupuncture, which is part of the traditional medicine of China, uses needles and sometimes heat to stimulate nerve endings. Acupuncture has been used in patients with epilepsy with mixed results. In behavioural therapy seizures are viewed as a kind of conditioned or learned though not voluntary response to environmental conditions. Behaviour modification strategies that have had some success in people with seizures involve rewards, reinforcement, auto suggestion, relaxation, desensitization and other conditioning strategies.
Aromatherapy uses pure aromatic oils from plants for stimulation and relaxation and to aid the healing process. Tim Betts, a British researcher, has had some success using oils on patients with epilepsy who can predict an imminent seizure. If peopleinsist on using HBOT, practitioners warn that it may trigger seizures and lead to higher doses of anti-epileptic medication.
The risk of seizures occurring due to treatment is estimated at one in It has been suggested that people with epilepsy avoid this type of treatment. Expand Magnetic Stimulation Section Magnetic Stimulation Recent research has indicated that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation rTMS may help decrease the number or severity of seizures in patients who suffer from refractory epilepsy.
Effects of the treatment wear off in six to eight weeks. Further investigation is still required. Expand Music Therapy Section Music Therapy The use of music therapy to treat children with epilepsy is a very new approach. Music can be used to promote movement, relaxation, self-expression, creativity, interaction, self-awareness, learning, communication and personal development. These skills may help children gain important social skills, decrease their feelings of isolation, increase their self-esteem and gain control over their lives.
Use of complementary and alternative medicine in epilepsy.
While there is no scientific evidence that music therapy can decrease the occurrence of seizures, there is proof that leading a more active and productive life can. Expand Reflexology Section Reflexology Reflexology is based on the principle that the anatomy of the body is reflected in miniature reflex zones on the head, ears, hands and feet. It can involve the feet, head, ears or hands, although the foot is the most common type of reflexology treatment.
The treatment applies pressure over the foot to initiate healing in the body. It can promote relaxation and reduce stress. Both feet receive treatment during a full session, as the body is seen to be a whole unit. Ancient pictographs portray Egyptians massaging their feet, while old texts and illustrations show Chinese, Japanese, and Indian cultures working on their feet to combat illness.
The current theory of linking various parts of the foot with specific part of the body was developed in the early s by Dr. William H. In the s, Eunice Ingham, a nurse and physiotherapist who used zone therapy, refined the system.
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In a typical session, the reflexologists will begin by gently massaging your feet. The reflexologists will treat one foot first, then the other. No instruments are required, but some practitioners use devices such as rubber balls to apply some of the pressure. If you have foot problems, such as severe calluses or corns, the therapist may refer you to a podiatrist for treatment since reflexologists do not treat foot disorders. Sessions typically last from 30 to 60 minutes. Some reflexologists claim that manipulation of the feet reduces the amount of lactic acid in the tissues and releases tiny calcium crystals that accumulate in the nerve endings of the feet.
This restores the free flow of energy from the feet to the corresponding organs. Others speculate that pressure on the reflex points may trigger the release of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that naturally block pain. Some practitioners claim that reflexology leads to a state of relaxation that opens the blood vessels and improves circulation.
Still others credit a detoxifying effect, suggesting the manipulation dissolves crystals of uric acid that settle in the feet. Although some people claim reflexology can help control seizures, there have been no major clinical trials to verify the effectiveness of reflexology. It is recommended, even by its advocates, that reflexology be used as an adjunct to conventional therapy. Proper treatment for a person with epilepsy requires a qualified reflexologist.
While there is insufficient research on the effectiveness of these methods in controlling seizures in people with epilepsy, some individuals have found them helpful. There is, however, research showing the benefits of removing stress to control seizure intensity and frequency. Stress is known to be a trigger of seizures.
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Although critics have warned that deep diaphragmatic breathing might inadvertently cause hyperventilation inducing seizures especially absence seizures , the benefits of the relaxation response are likely to help control seizures. Progressive Relaxation Therapy PRT Progressive relaxation therapy requires little sophisticated equipment and is relatively inexpensive and requires little training.
Contingent relaxation is similar to PRT, but teaches people how to interrupt pre-seizure indications aura or prodromal warning to help prevent a seizure before it occurs. Some people have fewer and less severe seizures. Other benefits include:. Massage Therapy Many people find massage therapy to be very beneficial. Massage therapy involves dozens of specialized massage techniques, but the most widespread variation comprises six basic strokes of Swedish massage:. Massage involves the systemic manual application or pressure and movement to the soft tissue of the body i.
It is believed to encourage healing by promoting the flow of blood and lymph. The typical length of time for a full body massage is one hour. Be sure to find a qualified massage therapist.
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There is no scientific evidence that massage therapy provides a beneficial effect in the treatment of epilepsy. It does, however, promote relaxation and helps decrease stress, a possible trigger of seizures. Consult your physician before trying any alternative therapy. Yoga Yoga is not a cure itself for any medical ailment. Rather, it is an age-old set of exercises that helps promote health. Benefits of yoga include:. Yoga exercises are usually conducted in group classes. A typical session includes three disciplines:. This practice has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, both immediately following yoga exercise and over time.
Although there are no reports documenting the beneficial effects of yoga in the treatment of epilepsy, it does seem to help decrease stress a possible trigger of seizures. Consult your physician before attempting any alternative therapy.
To find out more about yoga classes, contact your local community or fitness centre. For more information, visit the Yoga Centre Toronto website. Stones and bracelets are recommended today because they are believed to produce vibrations that heal or protect. Each stone has its own vibration that should match with the target organ.
Recommendations for epilepsy are not uniform, but emerald is the most popular. It has been suggested that some of these deficiencies may be involved in the development of certain behavioural disturbances. These deficiencies may also worsen some of the toxic effects of anti-epileptic drugs AEDs. For example, a deficiency of B6 pyridoxine , which may be diagnosed at birth, can cause a seizure disorder.
Pregnancy precautions The need for replacement therapy remains controversial since some vitamins may reduce the efficacy of AEDs or may even cause seizures e. Although there is the risk of increased seizures while taking folic acid supplements, women who are trying to conceive and those who are pregnant are encouraged to take folic acid replacements. A deficiency in folic acid may lead to an increased chance of miscarriage spontaneous abortion or having a child with birth defects.
It is recommended that you talk to your doctor when considering pregnancy. Vitamin B23 Vitamin B23 carnitine is a protein found in all tissues and is essential for life. Plasma levels are usually low in people with epilepsy who are taking valporate with other AEDs e. Carnitine is sometimes used in conjunction with AEDs or the ketogenic diet.
It is found in high quantities of red meat and milk products. It is available in a pharmaceutical form Carnitor. Adverse effects of taking carnitine supplements may include:. Minerals and Hormones Decreased levels of calcium and magnesium can predispose a person with epilepsy to experiencing seizures. There is no evidence, however, that additional calcium or magnesium in the diet have any beneficial effect in the general management of epilepsy. Some have suggested that elevated zinc levels may play a role in the exacerbation of epileptic seizures, although further investigation is required.
Melatonin a hormone is a natural substance produced in the brain by the pineal gland. It is primarily used for jet lag, but recent animal studies have found it may show anticonvulsant effects. Further investigation is still required to determine its short- and long-term efficacy in humans. While it is sold at health food stores in the United States and elsewhere, it is not available in Canada. Amino Acids The amino acids taurine and tryptophan have been used as adjunctive treatments for various types of epilepsy. Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid, which is not used in protein synthesis, but found free or in simple peptides.
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Clinically, taurine ahs been used with varying degrees of success in the treatment of a wide variety of conditions, including:. Tryptophan is also an essential amino acid. It is a natural relaxant with many benefits, such as:. These effects, however, have not been well studied. Further investigation is necessary to determine their efficacy. Expand Therapeutic Touch Section Therapeutic Touch Therapeutic touch is a contemporary interpretation of several ancient healing practices.
It is a consciously directed energy exchange. Practitioners use their hands as a focus for facilitating healing. This technique is one of the most controversial alternative therapies. Critics say there is no evidence of an energy field. Any benefits, they say, are positive psychological responses. Therapeutic touch rarely involves physical contact between the practitioner and the patient. This treatment is based on the principal of energy exchange between people. The treatment lasts from 10 to 30 minutes. It is often used as a supplement to traditional medical therapies.
The effectiveness of this technique in treating epilepsy has not been documented.
Exercise caution when seeking out a therapeutic touch practitioner, since there is no certification required to practise the technique in Ontario. Therapeutic touch is taught and practised all over the world, including numerous universities and colleges in Canada and the United States. It is accepted as a nursing intervention in an increasing number of hospitals in Ontario.
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