Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as chronic fatigue immune deficiency syndrome, is a complex disease involving multiple systems in the body. It is a condition that affects the neurological system, immune system, and the muscular systems of the body. There is no known cause, no medical test to identify it, as well as no known medical treatment. CFS affects one million people in the United States according to the Centers for Disease control, while approximately ten million people have symptoms similar to chronic fatigue but do not meet the full criteria. It is believed to affect more women than men, although anyone can be diagnosed. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can offer relief for the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and help patients return to a full and balanced life.
To be diagnosed with CFS, a patient must have (according to the Centers for Disease Control):
1) Severe, chronic fatigue for at least six months and have ruled out any other possible medical causes of the fatigue
2) At least four of the following symptoms:
• a decrease in short-term memory
• ability to concentrate
• sore throat
• Tender lymph nodes
• muscle pain
• multiple joint pain with the absence of swelling or redness
• Poor sleep
• malaise that becomes worse with exertion
• mild fever
There are other medical conditions that may present with symptoms similar to CFS, making it difficult to diagnose:
• Myalgic encephalomyelitis
• Chronic mononucleosis
• Post-viral fatigue
• Multiple chemical sensitivities
In Chinese medicine, CFS generally has a root pattern of a liver-spleen disharmony. The liver stagnation may be due to stress, anger, insufficient blood or insufficient yang to nourish the liver properly. The spleen deficiency can be due to a poor diet, excessive taxation, excessive caring, lack of physical exercise, or the liver stagnation depleting the spleen's Qi.
To treat CFS, there are acupuncture points on the body, arms, and legs that can help smooth out and course the liver Qi as well as help boost the spleen Qi. Herbal therapy may also help as there are several formulas that can treat the complex pattern. Furthermore, nutritional counseling may also be offered to help the patient eat foods that will treat the root pattern and avoid fatigue. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can also help with any other symptoms that a patient may experience with CFS, such as depression, insomnia, or anxiety. The treatments can also complement the conventional treatments a patient may be under with their doctor. By using acupuncture and Chinese medicine, patients may experience more energy, which in turn can help elevate the mood, make exercise and physical activity tolerable, as well as help restore the patient to the life they desire.