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Improve Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
(CFS) with TCM



          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). CFS is a debilitating condition that can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks. People who suffer from this disorder struggle to do day-to-day activities due to their activity levels dropping. Additionally, for those suffering from CFS, any physical or mental activity can worsen symptoms. CFS is more common in young, middle-aged adults and women. 

How does Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) happen?

          The exact cause of CFS is unknown, but several factors may contribute to the disorder, including (CDC, 2018):

  • Genetics 

  • Viral or bacterial infections, such as Epstein-Barr virus and Lyme disease 

  • Physical trauma, such as a car accident or surgery 

  • Emotional trauma, such as child abuse or sexual assault 

  • Issues with converting sugar or fat into energy 

  • Family History: People with a family history of CFS are more likely to develop the disorder within their lifetime. 


          Other factors that may increase the risk of developing CFS (U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d.):

  • Age 

  • Gender 

  • Medical problems  

What are the symptoms of CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS)?


  • Extreme fatigue that is not improved by rest 

  • Exhaustion after any mental or physical activities 

  • Difficulty concentrating 

  • Memory problems 

  • Cognitive impairment 

  • Dizziness 

  • Digestive issues 

  • Joint or muscle pain 

  • Insufficient sleep or sleep disturbances

          More rare and severe symptoms of CFS may include (CDC, 2018):

  • Headaches 

  • Sore throats 

  • Tender lymph nodes 

  • Sensitivity to light, sound, and smells 

What are the causes of CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME in Oriental Medicine?

          Oriental medicine views chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) as a result of the body’s deficiencies in both Qi and Yang. These two essential energies promote harmony and balance in the body (West Village Acupuncture, 2018). Qi is the life force and vital energy flowing through the body, promoting harmony and balance and powering all of its functions (Evans, 2018). When Qi is deficient, it can manifest symptoms such as fatigue, memory and concentration impairment, muscle pain, and headaches. Symptoms occur 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). Yang is the warming energy that provides vitality and strength. When Yang is deficient, it can cause feelings of restlessness, lack of energy, and cold symptoms (Esher, 2009). 

What can Oriental Medicine do to treat CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME?

          Acupuncture is an Oriental medicine therapy that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body. It is effective in relieving chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) symptoms. It is believed to work by restoring balance to the body's energy flow, known as Qi. Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for CFS. It is well-tolerated by most people and has few side effects.

          Acupuncture can help to improve CFS symptoms by: 

  • Stimulating the release of endorphins, which have pain-relieving and mood-boosting effects 

  • Clearing disruptions to Qi (Evergreen Chinese Medical Centre, n.d.) 

  • Reducing inflammation (Dellwo, 2022) 

  • Improving blood flow 

  • Detoxifying the system 

  • Regulating the nervous system 

  • Strengthening the patients’ pain thresholds (Dellwo, 2022) 

  • Increasing energy levels and vitality (Evergreen Chinese Medical Centre, n.d.). 

  • Promoting overall health 


          Acupressure is an Oriental medicine technique that can ease restlessness and muscle pain (Altshul, 2015). It involves applying pressure to specific points on the body to stimulate energy flow and promote healing. When pressure is applied to an acupressure point, it releases endorphins with pain-relieving and mood-boosting effects by blocking pain signals.

Here are a few acupressure points that can be used for pain relief and increased energy (Giaimo, 2020):

  • Top of the head (GV-20): This point is located at the top of the head, in the center of the crown. It is known as the "hundred meetings" point because all the body's meridians converge. Applying pressure to this point can help to relieve pain, headaches, and migraines. 

  • Between the thumb and pointer finger (LI-4): This point is located on the back of the hand, between the thumb and index finger. It is known as the "great ditch" point and is one of the most commonly used acupressure points. Applying pressure to this point can help to relieve pain, headache, nausea, and vomiting. 

  • Lower back (BL-23): This point is located on the lower back, just below the kidneys. It is known as the "kidney gate" point and can help to relieve pain, backache, and sciatica. 

  • Above the lip (DU-26): This point is located above the lip, in the center of the nasolabial fold. It is known as the "governing vessel" point and can help to relieve headaches, sinus problems, and toothaches.

          Acupressure on these points can also help clear the meridians to improve blood circulation and Qi flow (Healthshots, 2022), leading to increased energy levels and less prevalence of muscle aches. To use acupressure, apply firm pressure to the desired point for 1-2 minutes at a time. You can do this several times a day.


          Traditional Chinese herbs have been used for centuries to treat a variety of conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). TCM views CFS as a result of imbalances in the body's energy system, known as Qi. TCM practitioners believe certain herbs can help restore balance to Qi and improve CFS symptoms.

          Some of the most commonly used traditional Chinese herbs for CFS include:

  • Astragalus: Astragalus is an herb that helps to boost the immune system and improve energy levels. 

  • Ginseng: Ginseng is an adaptogenic herb that helps the body to adapt to stress, strengthens the body and rejuvenates energy levels.  

  • Reishi mushroom: Reishi mushroom is an adaptogenic herb that helps to promote better sleep and reduce stress and fatigue. 

  • Licorice root: Licorice root is an herb that helps to reduce inflammation and boost the immune system. 

  • Schisandra berry: Schisandra berry is an adaptogenic herb that helps to improve energy levels and protect the body from stress. 


          Moxibustion is an Oriental medicine therapy that involves burning a small cone of dried mugwort leaves on or near the skin. Moxibustion works by warming up the meridians, energy pathways running throughout the body. The heat from the moxa cone helps to stimulate specific points on the body, known as acupoints, unblock the meridians, and improve the flow of life force energy, Qi (You et al., 2021). This study also found that moxibustion was more effective and well-tolerated than acupuncture in reducing feelings of weakness and fatigue and improving the overall quality of life in CFS patients.​


          Cupping is another Oriental Chinese medicine therapy involving suction cups on the skin. The suction creates a vacuum that draws blood to the surface of the skin. Cupping is believed to work by increasing blood flow, reducing inflammation, and relieving muscle tension.

          Studies have shown that cupping can effectively treat CFS symptoms, such as fatigue, muscle pain, and sleep problems. A study found that cupping effectively improved sleep quality in people with CFS. (Meng et al., 2020). Another 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, other common symptoms of CFS (Rodriguez, 2019).

          While there is no cure for CFS, several lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Here are some of the most effective lifestyle changes for CFS (WebMD, 2023):

  • Preserve energy. CFS patients experience extreme fatigue, so it is important to avoid overworking themselves. Make time to rest throughout the day, and avoid activities that require excessive energy. 

  • Exercise in moderation. Regular exercise can help to improve energy levels and reduce fatigue in CFS patients. However, it is important to exercise in moderation and avoid overexerting yourself. 

  • Adopt a diet with less saturated fat. Eating a healthy diet can help to improve overall health and well-being in CFS patients. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive amounts of saturated fat. 

  • Use a planner. CFS patients often have difficulty remembering things and planning their day. Using a planner can help to stay organized and on track. 

  • Seek help from a doctor or therapist. A doctor or therapist can provide support and guidance on managing CFS. They can also help to develop a treatment plan that is right for you.

          Other lifestyle changes that may be helpful for CFS patients include (Dellwo, 2022):

  • Improving sleep quality. Getting enough sleep is essential for CFS patients. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night. 

  • Adopting healthy coping skills. CFS can be a stressful condition. It is important to adopt healthy coping skills, such as relaxation techniques and exercise, to manage stress. 

  • Maintaining a positive outlook. CFS can be a challenging condition, but it is important to maintain a positive outlook. Focus on the things you can control and celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem.

          Rapha Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)/Oriental medicine (OM) clinic in Newport Beach that specializes in men's and women's health. We can help you design the best treatment plan for your CFS using acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbs customized to your symptoms.
          At Rapha Acupuncture, we will work with you to create a treatment plan that is right for you. We offer a variety of acupuncture and herbal treatments, and we can customize your treatment to your individual needs. We are confident that we can help you relieve the pain and discomfort of CFS and improve your quality of life. 

Give us a call today!

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