Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is also referred to as myalgic encephalitis. (ME), post-viral fatigue syndrome (PVFS), and several other names. A contributing factor for this is the unproven cause or multiple causes of the disorder. The true prevalence of CFS is unknown and depends on the criteria that is used to establish a diagnosis. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellene (NICE) suggests a prevalence of 4 per 1,000 in the UK, with more women being affected. CFS is a considerably debilitating disorder usually experienced as persistent fatigue which is not because of any ongoing physical exertion, not relieved by rest and there are no other medical conditions.
Various biological, immune, hormonal, genetic, viral infectious and psychological stress have been put forward as a cause but as yet it is still not fully understood.
Symptoms of CFS
Symptoms vary from person to person and can may include poor quality sleep, generalised muscle and joint pains, muscle weakness, sore throat, headaches, cognitive difficulties/brain fog, extreme mental and physical exhaustion, depression and others.
Treatment of CFS
Conventional medical treatment of CFS is aimed at symptom relief. Drugs such as antidepressants and sleeping pills can be used in addition to improving sleeping habits, physiotherapy and counselling.
Integrative & Complementary medicine
In CFS there is poor utilization and production of energy which results in tiredness and muscle aches. Getting well is reliant on supporting energy production in the body (i.e. the mitochondrial function). Making significant lifestyle changes can seem extremely arduous and many patients may baulk at this important first step. This is the building block of the road to recovery. The aim is to bring about self-awareness of themselves and their own body and helping them to access knowledge so that they are in a commanding position to manage their own health.
Acupuncture observational studies consistently show positive results. There is evidence to support its benefit to manage symptoms such as, body pain, insomnia, tiredness, headaches, stress and depression. Treatments help to release pain reducing endorphins and other neurohormonal factors, thus changing how pain is perceived by the brain and spinal cord. Increases microcirculation and release of vascular and immune modulating factors therefore reducing inflammation, swelling and pain. It increases the secretion of nocturnal endogenous melatonin which in turn reduces insomnia.
Nutrition: Detoxification and making changes towards a more healthy diet e.g. avoiding refined foods, sugar, alcohol, caffeine and saturated fats, and replacing it with a more nutrient rich diet. Supplements that may help CFS are, magnesium, essential fatty acids, vitamin B12, vitamin D, antioxidants, NADH, DHEA, L-carnitine.
Aromatherapy & Massage: Essential oils of jasmine, peppermint and rosemary can help to reduce stress. In combination with massage it can help to relieve muscular tension, body aches and pains and sleep problems.
Other therapies: Herbs that may be beneficial include; ginseng and echinacea. Learning to pace, de-stress, meditation and yoga may also help.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome. (2012). University of Maryland.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (2011). British Acupuncture Council.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (2014). Patient.co.uk
Reviewed: Dec 2014