The different types of MS treatments explained

There is no cure for MS but there are treatments to slow disease progression and help you feel better. Treating MS is often a case of combining different types of treatments to see what works for you.

The different types of MS treatments explained

There are three different categories of treatments for MS

Long term treatments for MS

These work to slow MS activity and progression. They’re commonly referred to as Disease Modifying Therapies (DMTs). They aren’t a cure but can reduce how many relapses you have and how severe they are. They can also slow down the damage caused by inflammation over time.

There are a lot of different DMTs available and which one is suitable for you will depend on things like:

  • What type of MS you have
  • How active it your MS is
  • Your medical history
  • Where you live

DMTs are administered in three ways:

  • Orally (tablets)
  • Injections at home
  • Intravenous (IV) infusions by a medical professional

The names of DMTs can be confusing, they have a generic name which is the scientific name for it and also a brand name which is created by the drug manufacturer. An example of this is paracetamol and ‘Tylenol’. In Emilyn we include both the brand name and drug name.

Generally research shows that treating MS early has the best outcomes for slowing disease progression.

There is a lot of active research into DMTs so new treatments become available and advice changes. Your doctor should know about these but you can proactively discuss your treatment options with them.

Treatment for relapses

If you are having a relapse you might be treated with a short course of steroids. Not all relapses require treatment with steroids but your healthcare team will advise you. If you do need them, they can be taken orally or with an intravenous infusion.

Treating MS symptoms

As there are so many symptoms of MS there are lots of treatments available to help manage them. Not all treatments are medications and you might need to try different approaches and combinations to find what works best for you.

Symptom management approaches include:

  • Drug treatments e.g. painkillers, baclofen for spacicity or modafinil for fatigue.
  • Therapies e.g. physiotherapy to help with balance or cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety
  • Lifestyle and management techniques for example exercise routines or planning your day to manage fatigue
  • Rehabilitation. This is working with professionals to improve how you function day to day and improve your quality of life. This could include things like mobility aids or making adaptations at home or work

Complementary and alternative therapies

Linked to symptom management there are also a variety of complementary and alternative therapies that people with MS use. These therapies range from things which are quite standard such as massage and yoga to things which are much more experimental and unproven.

There is a difference between complementary and alternative therapies which it is important to understand.

Complementary therapies are used in combination with conventional medicine

Alternative therapies are used instead of conventional medicine

Some complementary therapies can be used very comfortably alongside traditional treatments and can bring great benefits such as reducing anxiety and improving your general health.

Before you start doing anything, discuss it with your medical team.

The National MS Society suggest you ask yourself the following questions:

  • What does the treatment involve?
  • How and why is it supposed to work?
  • How effective is it?
  • What are the risks associated with its use?
  • How much does it cost or is it covered by your insurance plan?
  • Will it interact with my other therapies?

All therapy choices are very personal but you should make informed decisions about your treatment in partnership with your doctor.

You should also be aware that complementary and alternative therapies have undergone very little scientific research. Some websites and providers of complementary and alternative therapies can be very convincing and make claims about curing MS that are not true.

You can find out more about complementary therapies from the National MS Society.


MS Trust. (n.d.). Disease modifying drugs (DMDs). [online] Available at: https://mstrust.org.uk/about-ms/ms-treatments/disease-modifying-drugs-dmds.

‌Cerqueira, J. J., Compston, D. A. S., Geraldes, R., Rosa, M. M., Schmierer, K., Thompson, A., … Palace, J. (2018). Time matters in multiple sclerosis: can early treatment and long-term follow-up ensure everyone benefits from the latest advances in multiple sclerosis? Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 89(8), 844–850. https://doi.org/10.1136/jnnp-2017-317509

‌MS Trust. (n.d.). Steroids (methylprednisolone). [online] Available at: https://mstrust.org.uk/a-z/steroids-methylprednisolone.

‌Complementary & Alternative Medicines (2015). Complementary & Alternative Medicines. [online] National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Available at: https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Treating-MS/Complementary-Alternative-Medicines.

This article provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.