Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

What is CFS?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) is a chronic and complex condition. Sufferers can experience overwhelming and unrelenting exhaustion and fatigue that isn’t relieved by rest. The extent of symptoms experienced depend on the individual and they can range from mild to severe. Symptoms can last for weeks, months and sometimes years and can vary greatly on a day to day basis.

Who suffers from CFS?

Although CFS can affect anyone women tend to be more susceptible than men and are four times more likely to suffer from the condition. The symptoms of CFS can appear suddenly or develop over time.

What are the symptoms of CFS?

Symptoms vary from day to day:

  • Severe fatigue that is not alleviated by rest
  • Post-exertional malaise (PEM), symptoms are exacerbated by physical activity
  • Poor memory and lack of concentration
  • Feeling unrefreshed after sleep  
  • Ongoing insomnia and other sleep disorders 
  • Frequent muscle pain
  • Headaches and migraines 
  • Pain in joints without swelling or redness  
  • Chronic sore throat  
  • Swollen and tender lymph nodes

What causes CFS?

Nobody knows for sure the reason why some people develop CFS but there are several theories. Some of these include:

  • Developing the condition after a viral illness such as the Epstein Barr virus (EBV)
  • Hormonal balance
  • Trauma or ongoing stress
  • There is also thought to be a genetic link as you are more likely to develop the condition if another family member suffers from the condition

How is CFS diagnosed?

There is no standard blood test to establish that someone has CFS so a diagnosis is made on a person’s symptoms. In order for a diagnosis of CFS to be made, ongoing symptoms of fatigue (that are not alleviated by rest) must be present for at least six months. 

Certain medical conditions can cause extreme fatigue and some of the other symptoms associated with CFS. Some of these conditions include:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Anemia
  • Coeliac disease

These must be ruled out before making a diagnosis of CFS.

What is the medical treatment available for CFS?

There is no cure for CFS but Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) has been shown to help. Other methods include graded exercise therapy (GET) which is a gentle structured exercise technique and medications to provide pain relief and to help with sleep.

How can acupuncture help CFS?

Research has shown that acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment modality to help with the symptoms of CFS (1). Acupuncture may help to reduce musculoskeletal pain, reduce headaches, help sleep problems and alleviate fatigue.

Sleep problems are often experienced in CFS and acupuncture can help by triggering the relaxation response and improving nocturnal melatonin levels (2). It can also help by improving  problems with daytime sleepiness by regulating the circadian rhythms (3).

Acupuncture has an analgesic effect on neuropathic pain (4) and has been found to exhibit anti-inflammatory effects in painful conditions associated with inflammation (5).

CFS is thought to involve a dysfunction in the Central nervous system(6). Acupuncture has been shown to affect the central nervous system helping to rebalance the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system (7).

Acupuncture has been shown to reduce symptoms of fatigue (8) as well as helping with other complexed symptoms such as lassitude, diarrhea and amnesia (9).

What to expect during your treatment with me?

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) doesn’t treat diseases it treats people. From a TCM perspective, the cause of your CFS may well be very different from another person with the same condition. 

We will start with a thorough case history and will pay close attention to when your symptoms started, which symptoms are the most troublesome for you, what makes them better or worse and exactly how you experience them.

From there I will select acupuncture points that will help to provide relief from the symptoms you experience and help to address the root cause of your condition.

As TCM is a holistic system of healing we will also discuss your diet and current lifestyle providing advice where needed.

If you have any further questions about acupuncture please get in touch.

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