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Managing MG Pain With Holistic and Complementary Therapies

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: December 2023

Many people with myasthenia gravis (MG) experience pain. MG can cause muscle weakness, which in turn may cause pain. This can greatly affect your quality of life and make everyday tasks more difficult.1

There are different treatments for MG that try to reduce muscle weakness. Dealing with muscle weakness might in turn reduce pain. Some people also try nonprescription drugs or therapies to deal with their pain. These medicines and therapies are considered alternative medicine.2,3

Alternative ways of treating MG are not well-researched. They have not gone through clinical trials. Clinical trials are used to test a treatment in a controlled way. Since alternative therapies have not gone through clinical trials, their safety and whether they provide any consistent benefit for people with MG have not been rigorously assessed. Alternative therapies may not work for everyone.4

Here are some examples of alternative therapies that some people with MG report they have found helpful. It is important to talk to your doctor before trying any alternative therapies. They can help you decide what therapies are safe and appropriate for you.

Percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation

Percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (PENS) is a way to relieve certain types of pain. It uses needles to send electric signals to stimulate the nerves around a painful area.1

In a 2023 study, PENS was used to treat knee pain in another 61-year-old man with MG. It greatly reduced his pain. While this is a single example, it suggests that PENS might help with pain in some people with MG.1

Homeopathy

Homeopathy uses things from nature (like plants or minerals) to treat an illness. Homeopathic treatments are designed for a person’s specific symptoms.5

For example, one 2020 study focused on a 61-year-old man with MG who started homeopathic treatment along with his regular treatment. His homeopathic treatment included common homeopathic medicines. These homeopathic medicines were not specific for MG. Instead, they were chosen by his doctor to treat his symptoms.5

At the end of his treatment, the man had:5

  • No symptoms of MG
  • More energy
  • More strength

Keep in mind this is just one case study. Your specific medical needs are unique to you and you alone. Talk to your doctors before starting any homeopathic therapies. Some natural therapies can interfere with other medicines or have their own potential side effects.

Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese medicine uses acupuncture as a treatment. During acupuncture, a professional inserts thin needles into different parts of the skin. This is supposed to relieve pain, tension, and stress in the muscles.6,7

Some people experience side effects from acupuncture. These side effects can include pain and feeling tired right after the procedure. Some people believe that acupuncture also has an effect on the immune system. If so, it might have some benefits for people with autoimmune disorders like MG.6,7

Chinese herbal medicine

Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) is a popular treatment for MG in China. Some evidence suggests that taking CHM along with a regularly prescribed treatment can reduce symptoms of MG. While different studies show different results, CHM is safe for most people to use.8

Talk to your doctor before taking any new medicine, including CHM. They can help you figure out if the new medicine is safe for you to take. They can also tell you what side effects to look out for.

Exercise

The weak muscles and fatigue MG can cause can also make it harder to exercise. But research suggests that people with MG benefit from physical activity.2,3

Exercise stretches and strengthens muscles. Lack of physical activity can also often make pain worse. Adding some form of exercise:2,3

  • Has many health benefits
  • May strengthen your muscle
  • May reduce pain

Chiropractic treatment

Chiropractic adjustment aims to relieve pain using different movements of joints and muscles. One 2019 study tells of a 51-year-old woman who saw a chiropractor for pain in her neck and lower back. After a few sessions with the chiropractor, her pain and other symptoms of MG were reduced.9

Chiropractic treatments have not been systematically tested in MG. There are no clinical trials of chiropractic treatments in people with MG. These treatments also have some risks. More research is needed to know if there is any benefit for people with MG.9

Other ways to reduce pain

There are some other things you can do to make it easier to deal with pain due to MG. For example, you can create a support system. Having people around you who care for you can make it easier to deal with pain.10,11

If you can, make time for rest throughout the day. You can schedule or create reminders to take a break at certain times. Changes in your diet may also provide some benefit. In a 2021 study, a 56-year-old woman with MG ate only whole and plant-based foods for 5 months. This reduced her MG symptoms, including pain.10,11

Alternative treatments are usually used along with traditional (Western medicine) treatment from a doctor. If you would like to try an alternative way of managing your MG, talk to your doctor first. They can make sure the complementary therapy is safe for you.

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