Can acupuncture help with chronic fatigue?
With an estimated quarter of a million people in the UK having a formal diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) or ME, could acupuncture be part of the solution to managing its impact?
The biggest problem when it comes to treating fatigue and its symptoms is that even though awareness of CFS and ME is high, there is still a lack of detailed understanding of fatigue, what causes it, and how to manage it.
Although I will refer to it as chronic fatigue for the rest of this article, both CFS and ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) are names for the same condition, with CFS common in the United States and ME associated more generally with the UK.
Clinically diagnosed chronic fatigue is much, much more than just a case of feeling tired or lacking energy. At its worst, its effect can be so acute that it can literally stop people living and enjoying anything resembling a normal, healthy life.
While there are as many as a quarter of a million chronic fatigue diagnoses in the UK, it is thought there could be many more people suffering with acute or chronic fatigue without consulting their GP.
Though not a permanent condition, chronic fatigue can last a for a long time – on average around 6 years – and there is no specific treatment for it. In most cases it’s a case of simply managing symptoms on an individual basis.
Chronic fatigue is seen as a post-infective condition – in other words something that is a direct result of another, earlier infection. Most recently, it has been closely associated with long-Covid.
Recent studies have shown that acupuncture can be very effective in helping to control and manage the symptoms of chronic fatigue.
What are the symptoms of chronic fatigue?
In order to understand how acupuncture can help people to reduce the impact of chronic fatigue, it’s important to understand how this condition typically affects those who have to manage it.
Common symptoms include
- feeling extremely tired all the time – this includes a significant lack – and sometimes complete absence – of energy that makes doing daily activities all but impossible
- resting or sleeping does not ‘recharge’ your energy levels
- long recovery times after physical exertion
- problems sleeping and/or waking up frequently during the night
- problems with thinking, memory, and concentration
How can acupuncture help?
The first thing to say is that chronic fatigue is a condition that may be treated most effectively by an integrative approach to care – in other words, a mix of clinical care, complementary therapy, and patient-led lifestyle change.
The extent to the way in which the treatment approach is weighted in favour of one element over another will differ from case to case.
The reason that acupuncture is seen as an effective complementary treatment for chronic fatigue is that the fundamental principles of this ancient Chinese medicine are already focused entirely on revitalising and unblocking body’s natural inner healing energy.
It’s also known that people suffering with chronic fatigue are also more likely to experience mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and mild depression.
Again, the calming, healing nature of acupuncture is an effective option for reducing stress and anxiety and leaving the patient much better able to cope with the emotional challenges that chronic fatigue brings.
Boosting natural immunity
Post infective conditions are usually the result of the body being unable to completely rid itself of a viral infection. This may happen for one of a number of reasons, including a suppressed or inhibited immune system.
Acupuncture has proved to be highly effective in restoring the hormonal balance that’s required for the immune system to function properly. In helping the body to restore its own ability to heal effectively, acupuncture also equips it to mitigate chronic fatigue symptoms.
If you are experiencing chronic fatigue that has been clinically diagnosed by your GP or another health practitioner, and you want to explore alternative treatment options, or if you believe you may have undiagnosed fatigue, why not call us for an informal chat.
There’s no obligation, and we’d be very happy to talk to you about how we might work with your GP to support you in tackling the symptoms of chronic fatigue.