Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Treatment
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS, is a complicated condition most broadly defined as physical or mental fatigue that does not improve with rest. CFS is not yet fully understood by modern Western medicine. There is no single test to confirm the diagnosis, nor is there a single demonstrable cause for CFS. For this reason, many look to alternative medicine for solutions. Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and herbalism have many tried and true techniques for combating severe exhaustion and could be an important tool for patients suffering from this condition.
Western Perspective on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
One reason why CFS is so difficult to diagnose and treat with modern Western medicine is that the presenting symptoms and their severity can vary a great deal from person to person. Aside from general fatigue, symptoms may include headaches, muscle and joint pains, severe exhaustion after physical or mental exercise, dizziness, memory and concentration issues, and unrefreshing sleep. A reason that each individual who experiences CFS has a different constellation of symptoms could be that they come from a variety of causes, each separate in their pathophysiology, but all manifesting in the patient as severe fatigue. Triggers and risk factors that have been associated with CFS include particular viral infections, immune system impairment, anemia, hypothyroidism, sleep apnea or other types of insomnia, restless leg syndrome, hormonal imbalances, depression, anxiety, and other physical or emotional traumatic experiences. Treatment can therefore be somewhat difficult to administer since the exact cause is not demonstrated. Many of the treatments people have tried center on mood stabilizers and psychotherapy, whole balanced anti-inflammatory diet, or pain-relieving medications.
The Eastern Medicine Perspective on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Traditional Chinese medicine represents an entirely different system of symptom categorization and diagnosis. An entity that is difficult to define from one perspective might be relatively straight forward from an alternative angle. Chinese medical diagnosis is centered around the symptom pattern, not the pathophysiological root cause. Regardless of the single entity that started the cascade, the pattern of the symptoms will still point in a useful proper direction. At the most basic level, all fatigue relates to qi and/or blood deficiency. Qi, however, can mean many things. Another way of putting this is that there are many types of qi, and the pattern of the symptoms a patient with CFS has will reveal what type of qi or blood deficiency is present. Severe exhaustion centered around physical activity could be related to spleen qi or lung qi. Issues with focus, concentration, and memory might be related to heart qi or blood. Severe fatigue after viral illness might relate to lung qi or defensive qi. This underscores the issue that one patient’s CFS may present differently and require a different approach than that of another. This type of health problem is then easier addressed by a medical system where the presenting pattern guides diagnosis and treatment, as is the case with Traditional Chinese medicine. If all the patient’s symptoms point towards issues with kidney qi, simply tonifying the kidney is the immediate answer. No other root target needs to be identified for treatment to begin.
CFS Treatment Using Traditional Chinese Medicine
After a detailed Chinese medical intake, including examination of the pulse and physical quality of the tongue, a pattern diagnosis will be determined. The type of qi or blood deficiency the patient is facing is identified. The treatment protocol will involve a combination approach of acupuncture point needling, herbal formulas, or qigong/mindbody exercises to pull the pattern back to a balanced center. In fact, metanalyses have demonstrated that simpler treatments may be effective than larger, more complicated treatments. If the symptoms point towards a general lung qi deficiency, for example, a treatment protocol that simply tonifies lung qi and nothing else could be a very effective treatment. There is no absolute need to dig and dig for underlying causes. There are sets of acupuncture points that broadly tonify the qi of a particular organ or meridian channel they lie upon. There are also many very famous and well used qi tonic and blood nourishing herbs, including herbs that are specific for each organ. A formula or even single herb geared around tonifying lung qi can be selected. Similarly, different qigong routines have specific organ and meridian targets. A treatment regimen with the proper needles, herbs, and qigong exercises can be designed by an experienced Eastern medical practitioner.
If you would like to know more about how Chinese medicine can help with your chronic fatigue, contact us today.
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Chronic fatigue syndrome, Mayo Clinic
Chronic fatigue syndrome, Johns Hopkins
Acupuncture and moxibustion for chronic fatigue syndrome in traditional Chinese medicine: a systematic review and meta-analysis, BMC Complement Altern Med. 2017 Mar 23
Traditional Chinese medicine for chronic fatigue syndrome: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials, Complement Ther Med. 2014 Aug 22