Using Alternative and Holistic Healthcare Solutions

Jennifer van Amerom avatar

by Jennifer van Amerom |

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The daily grind of ingesting pills for my neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder can be very disheartening. There is medication for my nerve pain, to combat the fatigue, to manage the overall pain, to help me sleep. There are even pills to offset the heartburn that happens because of all the drugs. On some occasions, there is medication to slow down my immune system that is attacking itself.

I try not to focus on the number of medications I ingest every day, but once a week when I refill my pill dispenser, I’m faced with my bleak reality. It can impact my mental health, which is why I often turn to alternative healthcare solutions.

Sometimes, I’ve found, traditional prescription medicine can benefit from a boost.


I was so desperate for the pain of my illness to stop that despite my fear of needles, I called an acupuncturist. My entire body was on fire, like the worst sunburn I’ve ever had. During my first visit, I held my breath when the first few needles were placed at the top of my head, and then, by some miracle, or alternative medicine, the pain went away instantaneously.

At that moment I vowed to be more open-minded to alternative and holistic solutions. I never felt the needles go in, but I certainly felt my pain leave.


Many patients have turned to cannabis for pain management or relief. Evaluating the benefits of cannabis is worthy of its own column. Since it isn’t legal in many states, many patients have mixed feelings about introducing cannabis into their regular regimen.

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I recently started a daily dose of cannabidiol (CBD) oil, in pill format, but it’s too soon to voice my opinion. CBD is different from tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the component in cannabis that creates that feeling of being high.

Essential oils

I always have various essential oils on my nightstand — everything from immune boosters, sleep aid blends, and arnica oil for pain. With so many providers, it’s important to understand the concentration levels and how to use essential oils safely.

For years now, I’ve been using topical creams and oils like Neuragen to support my nerve pain. Like essential oils, there are many manufacturers, so you need to look closely at the ingredients.

Topical creams, oils, and ointments for nerve pain are found over the counter, which means you don’t need a doctor to prescribe them. However, they can be expensive. The price point is a challenge, which is why I only use these topical solutions when nothing else works.

Nerve stimulants

I was first introduced to the transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine by my physiotherapist while I was recovering from a transverse myelitis attack. The TENS machine uses mild electrical current to wake up and exercise the nerves.

Fortunately, our private insurance covers a personal TENS machine, so I’m often found around my home with wires connected to the electrodes sticking out from under my sweater. TENS machines are even found at major retailers, so they are readily available.

Personal TENS machines aren’t cheap, costing several hundred dollars; however, a good device will last several years.

Another patient told me about her Oska device, which uses pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy. By charging and restoring the cells in our body, PEMF therapy claims to speed tissue recovery after major trauma.

Diet and exercise

Diet, lifestyle, and regular fitness are definite aides to pain management. Again, these are all worthy of their own columns.

Years ago, I spent four months on the autoimmune paleo (AIP) diet. I eliminated foods that cause natural inflammation. I even took it a step further and spent that time as a vegetarian, too.

After a period, the diet’s goal is to slowly introduce foods, recording which ones cause an adverse reaction. From the AIP diet, I discovered that mass-produced eggs cause immediate symptoms like that burning sensation common in neuromyelitis optica patients.

Introducing alternative healthcare solutions is a trial-and-error exercise. It can be frustrating, but it’s also rewarding when you find a solution that supports your prescription medication.

Please share in the comments below any alternative solutions you’ve tried and their results.

Note: Neuromyelitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Neuromyelitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD).


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