Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a disabling illness that is not well understood by mainstream medicine.. (CFS) sufferers often experience overwhelming tiredness that does not improve with rest, called “post-exertional malaise.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans suffer from CFS, although it is believed that 90 percent of people with CFS have not been diagnosed. Sometimes, the symptoms become so severe that they interfere with a person’s ability to get out of bed, prepare a meal, or perform other daily activities. Researchers are uncertain about what causes CFS, and there are no medications specifically to treat CFS. Current recommended treatments include activity management, nutritional therapy and lifestyle changes. Sometimes, pharmaceuticals are recommended to manage symptoms. Additionally, preliminary studies suggest that a series of acupuncture treatment sessions can provide lasting relief from CFS symptoms.
A Misunderstood Illness
One of the reasons why CFS research is lacking is that many medical schools in the U.S. do not include information about CFS during physician training. Historically, CFS has often been misdiagnosed or not taken seriously. Western medical professionals may view a patient with CFS as someone who is simply too tired and even prone to histrionics. Those suffering from CFS symptoms may be told to get better sleep or to “push through the tiredness,” when this advice only exacerbates their fatigue. As a result, many people with CFS may feel despair and fail to seek out better solutions that could help them.
Possible Causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Research suggests that CFS may be caused by a complex combination of factors that work together. In some cases, certain infections may trigger CFS in some individuals, especially if immune function is already compromised. In other cases, physical and emotional stress may be the trigger for CFS. There may be genetic factors, although none have been specifically identified, or differences in how cells produce energy.
Current Approaches to Managing CFS Symptoms
If someone is formally diagnosed with CFS, a healthcare professional may recommend a series of strategies for managing symptoms. There is no cure for CFS, but symptoms can be addressed and mitigated. Many people with CFS find that symptoms worsen after performing simple tasks, so a physician may recommend activity management (also called pacing) to help individuals manage their exertion levels and find ways of recharging following any energy output. People with CFS also report a variety of sleep problems, from excessive sleeping to sleep disturbances. Both over-the-counter and prescription medications can be used to promote sleep, although these can cause long-term dependence and several unwanted side-effects. Those with CFS who suffer from depression, anxiety, or pain may be prescribed several medications—many of which carry side-effects.
How Acupuncture Can Provide Relief From CFS Symptoms
Although current research on the efficacy of acupuncture for treating CFS symptoms is limited, the preliminary data holds promise. According to one randomized controlled trial of 150 participants, those who received a series of 10 acupuncture sessions for four weeks reported significantly lower fatigue severity than those who continued their regular care. Another systematic review and meta-analysis of 31 randomized controlled trials showed that combined acupuncture and moxibustion were more effective at relieving CFS symptoms than Western medicine. The authors cite evidence that acupuncture and moxibustion help to regulate specific immune system factors that may contribute to CFS.
In addition to improving fatigue, acupuncture treatment may help with related symptoms, including sleep and depression. Those who suffer from CFS symptoms may find relief through a series of acupuncture sessions.
Interested in learning more about how a customized acupuncture treatment plan can help you find relief from chronic fatigue symptoms? Call Inner Works Acupuncture today at (503) 227-2127 to schedule an appointment with a Portland acupuncturist.