Chronic Fatigue Can Put a Drag on Quality of Life, but Acupuncture Can Help with Symptoms
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a difficult condition for doctors to pin down, but what is obvious is that it can have an outsized negative effect on quality of life. What makes CFS a challenge for physicians is that it’s systemic in nature, with a constellation of symptoms that present differently in every patient. Further, it’s often impossible to identify what’s causing a particular case, and CFS may be the result of several factors influencing each other.
Conditions that are difficult to diagnose are frequently difficult to treat. This is also the case with CFS, but there is promising research that suggests acupuncture can help with the syndrome.
What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and its Symptoms?
CFS is a systemic condition that’s characterized by profound fatigue, difficulty with exertion, and low-quality sleep. Many people with CFS also report brain fog and similar neurological symptoms. For those with CFS, even slight overexertion is enough to leave the patient exhausted.
Part of what makes CFS so difficult to deal with is its systemic presentation and multitude of potential causes. Some of those potential causes include genetic factors, chronic stress, acute infections (viral, bacterial, or fungal), reduced immune system function, hormonal imbalances, neurological dysregulation and even exposure to environmental toxins. There is an emerging belief among researchers that CFS is the result of several of these risk factors interacting with each other.
Given this potential assortment of causes, CFS is extremely difficult for physicians to treat, including western, allopathic physicians. In fact, there is no approved, standard treatment protocol for the condition. Patients are encouraged to get plenty of rest, pace themselves during exercise and avoid fatigue triggers. Medications typically prescribed for CFS also come with side effects that can also be a challenge to deal with.
For these reasons, many CFS patients are turning to alternative treatments to manage their symptoms, including acupuncture.
What Does the Medical Research Say About Acupuncture and Fatigue?
Acupuncture has been used with chronic fatigue and similar conditions for centuries. Although more high-quality research is needed, there is already considerable evidence that acupuncture is effective for an array of health problems, including pain, fatigue, and sleep problems.
Regarding CFS specifically, some of the relevant research includes:
A 2014 meta-analysis published in Complementary Therapeutic Medicine. This meta-analysis looked at 23 studies and 1,776 participants. Various eastern modalities were studied, including acupuncture and herbal therapy. The researchers found that acupuncture and other eastern modalities were effective for fatigue symptoms, whether those symptoms were measured using the Chalder’s fatigue scale, Bell’s fatigue scale and the fatigue severity scale.
A 2010 meta-analysis published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. This analysis considered 70 clinical trials, and after review, the researchers determined that 60 of 70 trials demonstrated some benefit, though the studies used a variety of treatment methods to generate positive results. The analysis team, though, did note that the most compelling benefits were associated with the use of acupuncture.
A 2012 study that compared the efficacy of acupuncture and the steroid prednisone. Though the study was small – consisting of only 72 cases – the research team found that acupuncture was more effective than prednisone at treating CFS following several courses of treatment.
That’s what the medical research says about acupuncture, but what makes the treatment effective against CFS and other fatigue disorders?
How Does Acupuncture Help with Chronic Fatigue?
Although researchers are still unsure what makes acupuncture effective for various health conditions, they have some well-founded and well-supported ideas. Some of those theories include:
- Stimulating the nervous system – A popular theory among eastern and western doctors is that acupuncture needles stimulate the nervous system when inserted. This can help regulate signaling between the brain and other organs.
- Helping with hormone regulation – Acupuncture has notable benefits for menopausal women, suggesting an effect on hormone regulation. As hormones are often implicated in CFS, restoring balance may also reduce fatigue.
- Releases “feel-good” compounds like endorphins – One of acupuncture’s proven effects is its capacity to release endorphins and similar compounds into the bloodstream. These compounds facilitate the body’s own self-healing processes and can improve energy levels and mood.
- Establishes a routine that supports well-being – Finally, many patients just find acupuncture to be relaxing to the point where it’s easier to deal with the debilitating effects of chronic stress. By reducing stress, many patients also reduce their fatigue.
With acupuncture, there are multiple health-boosting effects working in the patient’s favor. Together, they may help undermine the debilitating effects of CFS and restore quality of life.
Always Exhausted? Houston Acupuncture May Be Part of the Solution
If your CFS is stubborn and not responding to lifestyle changes or medication, eastern treatments like acupuncture may be an effective alternative. If provided by a licensed acupuncturist, the treatment is safe and pain-free for most patients. And a licensed acupuncturist will know what points to target for maximum effect. When used in this way, acupuncture can be a viable long-term adjunct option for CFS and help patients push back against their fatigue.