Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a prolonged state of lethargy and general fatigue. It is often diagnosed by a process of elimination when no other cause can be found. It tends to develop after a period of prolonged illness or emotional stress. Western Medicine doesn’t have much to offer in its treatment other than giving B12 shots and vitamins and supplements.
Like IBS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome doesn’t exist in Chinese Medicine, as its pathology can be explained, though often it can be a result of several different disharmonies. Clinically I see many mid 20’s females suffering Chronic Fatigue Syndrome after having Glandular Fever, or I see patients in their 30’s and 40’s suffering it after prolonged periods of emotional strain or over work.
The symptoms can present as general lethargy or there can a mix of other symptoms including digestive or sleep issues. Commonly though most patients mention that they can sleep for days on end but never wake refreshed. When the digestion is impaired it doesn’t separate nutrients from waste properly, this results in some waste being sent around the body instead of down and out through the bowel. This “waste” is what the Chinese call dampness. It is a Yin pathogen which blocks the flow of Qi, think of it as fog blocking the sunlight. This dampness also impairs the digestion further which creates a vicious cycle. As you can see by the common causes, they are all extreme situations, the body as either had to deal with large amounts of stress or an illness so debilitating that your “batteries have been run flat”. This is why my Acupuncture is focused on restoring your digestive health, as it is the source of all our energy.
With extreme illnesses like Glandular Fever, even Western Medicine says that it never fully leaves your system. In Chinese Medicine we call this a “Lingering Pathogen”. Whenever your run down or stressed strange symptoms flare that appear like an infection, but disappear on their own. This is due to the virus having never been fully expelled from your body. Obviously your immune system is constantly fighting it in the background which slowly weakens you as a whole. This can show as chronically swollen lymph glands or ongoing tonsillitis and throat infections. The pathogen weakens your Lung Qi as it controls your immune system (Called Wei Qi). The lungs are also the Commander of all the Qi in your body, so as it gets depleted you start to feel tired and lethargic. The Lung can also draw extra Qi from the Stomach and Spleen (the source of all your energy) to try and sustain itself, which causes digestive problems to arise and is how this chronic disharmony develops. The damage done to the digestion results in it functioning at only a fraction of its capacity causing the formation of dampness.
How I use Acupuncture to Treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Depending on the root cause of your Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, there are several different treatment approaches I take. The two most commonly used in my clinic, is using Acupuncture to drain the dampness from the body and strengthening the digestion to increase energy production. The dampness represents the tired/heavy feeling that accompanies the fatigue, which blocks your energy flow, leaving you feeling foggy and wanting to constantly sleep. After clearing the damp out, I then work on improving your digestive health using point combinations I have refined over many years.
If there are symptoms of a lingering pathogen, then the initial approach is to expel the pathogen from the body once and for all. Then we work on strengthening the weakened organs and replenishing your Qi to return your body back to balance.