Chronic fatigue is unexplained fatigue that lasts for more than six months. It impairs normal activities and has no identifiable medical or psychological conditions that account for it. A number of other unexplained symptoms often accompany it, such as difficulty with memory or concentration, headaches, and sore muscles or joints.
Types of Chronic Fatigue
There are two types of chronic fatigue in the medical literature. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CSF), includes an array of symptoms in addition to fatigue. Doctors look for four of the following symptoms to be present for at least six months along with the fatigue in order for a diagnosis of ME/CSF to be made:
If these conditions are not met, then a diagnosis of idiopathic chronic fatigue may be made. Idiopathic Chronic Fatigue (ICF) involves fatigue lasting for more than six months without (or with less than four of) the co-occurring symptoms listed above.
Causes of Chronic Fatigue
Although the exact causes of these conditions are unknown, researchers theorize that infection, immune system malfunction, genetics, and the effects of stress on hormone production may play roles in different patients. As with other syndromes which involve a group of symptoms that vary for each individual affected, individuals with CSF often have varying experiences and potential causes of their condition. This is often frustrating for patients receiving this diagnosis, who are searching for definitive answers and solutions.
Acupuncture is proven effective
Acupuncture has been proven effective for all chronic fatigue syndromes in both observational studies and randomized controlled trials (see links to studies below). One of the reasons that acupuncture is so effective is that acupuncturists make a differential diagnosis, looking deeply into which systems are affected in each patient. From this, acupuncturists develop individualized treatment plans to resolve symptoms and restore health.
The biological basis of acupuncture
In general, acupuncture works by communicating with the central nervous system through the peripheral nervous system. More specifically, acupuncture point stimulation of the peripheral nervous system causes a shift in the release of biochemicals in the central nervous system. Different points yield different effects. No matter which point is used, though, all acupuncture points have been found to cause a reduction in systemic inflammation as well as an increase in blood circulation. Acupuncture has also been found to assist in the restoration of homeostasis, the body’s ability to regulate its environment and maintain internal balance. For chronic fatigue syndromes specifically, one of the main mechanisms of acupuncture's effects is a release of endorphins, which can raise the amount of white blood cells, T-cells and antibodies in the body. All of this results in an increase in energy, a decrease in pain and other symptoms, and an increase in a sense of well being.
Chronic fatigue in Traditional Chinese Medicine
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are a number of different imbalances that can be behind the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndromes. Below are some examples of different traditional diagnoses and the specific symptoms associated with them. Please note that the organ systems listed are a basic translation from the original Chinese, and represent larger functional systems in Chinese Medicine.
Five Element Acupuncture
In Five Element Acupuncture, nearly all of the elements can be implicated in chronic fatigue syndromes. In fact, it is not uncommon for complex multiple element imbalances to be involved. This is why a differential diagnosis is so important, and why acupuncture can be so effective in the treatment of chronic fatigue, even where modern medicine has failed to produce desired relief. For more information about the Five Elements, you can read an essay on them here.
Chronic fatigue syndromes are complex and debilitating chronic diseases with a serious impact on one’s quality of life. Acupuncture can help. It has been proven to provide relief of symptoms, particularly where modern medicine has failed to produce the desired results. To read more about acupuncture and chronic fatigue, take a look at some of the related links below. You can also read more about Acupuncture, Eastern Medicine, Five Element Theory, or Our Philosophy. If you have any questions, feel free to Contact Us or Schedule an Appointment online.
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