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What about alternative and holistic therapies?

Please be aware that given recent publications and emerging evidence, this page is currently under review.

Many people with M.E. try different approaches to help them manage their illness and their symptoms. Most alternative and complementary therapists are competent, ethical and caring.

Provided there is no evidence of harm, Action for M.E. adopts an open-minded approach to complementary therapies, on the basis that people with M.E. report that different approaches do help some people.

However, no-one can be certain whether or how a person might benefit from a treatment. People with M.E. differ, sometimes greatly, in their response.

We strongly advise people to view with caution any method which claims to offer a cure, has not been adequately researched with peer-review, and requires the payment of large sums of money.

Our 2014 M.E. Time to deliver survey report found that 35% of respondents used a complementary approach to help them manage their symptoms. Of these:

  • 84% said they found meditation/mindfulness helpful or very helpful (15% said it made no difference, and 2% said it made them a bit or much worse)
  • 71% said they found massage, including lymphatic drainage helpful or very helpful (11% said it made no difference, and 17% said it made them a bit or much worse)
  • 69% said they found yoga helpful or very helpful (14% said it made no difference, and 18% said it made them a bit or much worse)
  • 64% said they found reflexology helpful or very helpful (27% said it made no difference, and 9% said it made them a bit or much worse)
  • 60% said they found reiki helpful or very helpful (33% said it made no difference, and 7% said it made them a bit or much worse).

One survey respondent told us:

“Mindfulness meditation is very helpful in managing fatigue and obtaining quality rest as part of pacing.”

Questions to ask alternative practitioners

A private practitioner should inform your regular GP or specialist of any tests or treatment. If you are thinking of seeing one, we recommend you consider the following.

What are their qualifications?

Always use a qualified therapist who belongs to a professional body. Most professional bodies will have a code of conduct which their members must follow. Ask what qualifications they have and which registered body they are affiliated to. Check that they have professional indemnity insurance. You could also contact the professional body to help you find a practitioner in your area.

What experience do they have with people with M.E.?

How many people with M.E. have they treated recently? What have their outcomes been? Do they practitioner keep a record/audit of treatment responses?

Will you feel at ease? Choose a therapy and a practitioner that you feel comfortable with. You may. You could ask your local M.E. support group for feedback on a particular therapy or therapist you would like to try.

How much will it cost?

What are the usual minimum, maximum and average costs of treatment over time? Ask specifically about the cost of tests, drugs or supplements. Explain that you would like to know about all possible costs before starting any treatment. Do they offer any concessions to patients on low incomes?

Can they meet your health needs?

When you are making your choice of practitioner you might want to think about your particular health needs. For example, if you use a wheelchair is there good access? If you have multiple chemical sensitivities, do they use air fresheners or other products which may cause you discomfort?

What does your GP or specialist say?

Talk to your GP or specialist and ask for their advice, especially if your treatment involves taking pills or medicines. Some treatments may interact so should not be taken together. Check with your doctor if you're not sure. It is a good idea to think of different approaches such as complementary medicine as something that can work alongside, instead of replacing, your usual medical care.