What is post-traumatic Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) ?
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis, is a disorder characterized by feelings of significant fatigue that last over six months (Mayo Clinic, 2023). People who suffer from this disorder struggle to do day-to-day activities due to their activity levels dropping.
How does Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) happen?
Although there is no known cause for this syndrome, some possible factors that may contribute to the disorder include genetics, viral or bacterial infections, emotional or physical trauma, and issues with converting sugar or fat into energy (CDC, 2018). Those with a family history of CFS are more likely to develop the disorder within their lifetime. Also, many people seem to develop CFS after recovering from an infection or trauma. Some factors that may increase the risk of someone developing CFS are age, gender, and medical problems (U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d.). For instance, it is more common among young, middle-aged adults and women. Additionally, for those suffering from CFS, any physical or mental activity can worsen symptoms.
What are the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)?
Some common symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) include fatigue, exhaustion after any mental or physical activities, memory problems, dizziness, digestive issues, joint or muscle pain, and insufficient sleep. More rare and severe symptoms include headaches, sore throats, lymph nodes, and sensitivity to light, sound, and smells (CDC, 2018). In many cases, simply resting may not be sufficient to relieve symptoms. In Western medicine, this disorder is treated using medication such as antidepressants, exercises that decrease light sensitivity, dietary supplements, or psychological counseling, as there is no known cure for CFS (John Hopkins Medicine, 2020).
What are the causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) in Oriental Medicine?
In Oriental medicine, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is attributed to the body's deficiency in Qi and Yang (West Village Acupuncture, 2018). Qi is the life force in our body that promotes harmony and balance; therefore, when it is deficient, health issues arise (Evans, 2018). It is believed that Qi deficiency causes CFS because it can manifest symptoms such as memory and/or concentration impairment, muscle pain, and headaches, which are common symptoms of CFS. In addition, it occurs because Qi is unable to reach the head and muscles, and it causes these organs to be undernourished and function less efficiently (West Village Acupuncture, 2018). On the other hand, Yang deficiency causes the affected individual to experience feelings of restlessness, lack of energy, and cold symptoms (Esher, 2009). Lack of energy and restlessness are the most distinctive symptoms of CFS; therefore, it is believed that Yang deficiency is one of the factors contributing to CFS.
What can Oriental medicine do to treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)?
Various Oriental medicine modalities, such as acupuncture, can help relieve chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) symptoms. Because acupuncture is effective at clearing disruptions to Qi, encouraging energy flow, and increasing the vitality of patients (Evergreen Chinese Medical Centre, n.d.). It would help regulate the blood flow and detoxify the system, promoting overall health. Also, acupuncture is an excellent method to reduce inflammation, and studies have shown it can also strengthen the patients’ pain thresholds (Dellwo, 2022).
Acupressure at specific points of the body can release endorphins that decrease pain by blocking pain signals, which helps ease restlessness and muscle pain (Altshul, 2015). Examples of acupressure points that can help release energy into the body include the top of the head, between the thumb and pointer finger, the lower back, and above the lip (Giaimo, 2020). These points help clear the meridians so blood can circulate and Qi can easily flow (Healthshots, 2022), resulting in increased energy levels and less prevalence of muscle aches.
Additionally, many traditional Chinese herbs are known to promote better quality sleep and reduce fatigue, which can benefit those who have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) (LAc, 2013). Many herbs help boost the immune system and improve energy levels in individuals. It also benefits treating psychological symptoms associated with CFS, such as depression and anxiety (Zhang et al., 2022). Herbs can also provide nutrients to the body that a regular diet would not be able to achieve, which can help strengthen the patients and rejuvenate their energy (Art of Wellness Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine, 2022).
Cupping is another Oriental medicine modality that has been shown to be helpful in treating chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and poor sleep quality (Meng et al., 2020). A study discovered that CFS patients who used cupping along with drugs had better health outcomes than patients who only used drugs (Dwello, 2022). The cupping mechanism is efficient because it expands the blood vessels, allowing blood to flow throughout the body and facilitating pain relief from muscle aches (Dwello, 2022). Many studies show that cupping can benefit those experiencing long-term fatigue, anxiety, and headaches (Rodriguez, 2019).
Moxibustion is also an excellent modality to decrease feelings of weakness and fatigue. This Oriental medicine modality stimulates different points inside the body to relieve symptoms, especially symptoms relating to fatigue. Because moxibustion warms up the meridians and unblocks the pathway in which Qi flows (You et al., 2021). Interestingly, a study by You et al. (2021) found that using moxibustion for CFS had more positive outcomes than acupuncture.
Lastly, lifestyle changes can be highly beneficial to those managing chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Effective adjustments include preserving energy, exercising in moderation, adopting a diet with less saturated fat, using a planner, and seeking help through a primary care doctor or therapist (WebMD, 2023). Since CFS patients experience extreme fatigue, it is essential to avoid overworking themselves by saving their energy for important tasks, which can be accomplished by making time to rest, avoiding activities that require excessive energy, and adopting a diet that maximizes their energy (Winchester Hospital, n.d.). Other efforts should be aimed at improving sleep quality and adopting healthy coping skills to maintain a positive outlook on their condition (Dellwo, 2022).
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