Acupuncture successfully alleviates chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Researchers discovered that the application of manual acupuncture or acupuncture with warming needle moxibustion significantly reduces “physical and mental fatigue.” As a result of the investigation, the research team concludes that acupuncture provides a significant “therapeutic effect in the treatment of CFS.”
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a debilitating disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that does not improve with rest and is exacerbated by physical and mental activity. Symptoms include exhaustion, weakness, musculoskeletal pain, poor memory and concentration, and insomnia.
Biomedicine does not identify a specific cause or cure for CFS and treatment focuses on alleviating symptoms. Lab tests and biomarkers specific to CFS are nonexistent. Several types of infections are considered risk factors for CFS including Epstein-Barr virus, human herpes virus 6, enterovirus, rubella, candida albicans, bornaviruses, mycoplasma, Ross River virus, coxiella burnetti and HIV. Sleep, antidepressant and pain relieving medications are often prescribed to patients to alleviate suffering.
Differential diagnostics within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) categorizes CFS into several treatable patterns. The researchers chose acupuncture points best suited for the treatment of CFS based on TCM theory. The manual acupuncture group received needling at acupoints:
The warm needle acupuncture with moxibustion group received acupoint needling at:
Additionally, acupuncture treatment was administered to a third group to test for acupuncture point specificity. Nearby points were chosen between 1 – 2 cm from the real acupuncture points. This type of approach varies from high quality sham acupuncture testing for the placebo effect wherein needles only appear to penetrate the skin. In the nearby point group, the researchers applied true acupuncture needling but not in the classic, exact locations as indicated in TCM:
Needling was applied to the points for all three groups at a rate of once per day for a total of twenty days. CFS was evaluated based on the Chalder Fatigue Scale, a fourteen item breakdown of symptoms. The nearby point group did show improvements in the physical score but only the manual acupuncture and warm needle moxibustion groups significantly improved in the physical and mental fatigue scores. The physical score was overwhelmingly better in the warm needle acupuncture group than the other groups.
The nearby point needling group scored the lowest with a patient satisfaction rate of 35.7%. The acupuncture with warm needle moxibustion group scored the highest with a 72.7% patient satisfaction rate. This group achieved very high scores in both physical and mental improvements. The manual acupuncture group achieved a 36.2% effective rate.
These results point to the superiority of warm needle moxibustion for the treatment of CFS for the point selections in the study design. Interestingly, CFS responds to nearby point stimulation for physical issues as long as the points are within 1 – 2 cm of the true acupuncture point, however, the results are nowhere near as effective as true acupuncture with moxibustion.
This type of testing has come under great scrutiny because TCM theory states that the so-called nearby points may be either Ah Shi acupuncture points or acupoints that stimulate relevant acupuncture channels. Nonetheless, this is an intriguing study that was able to get clinical results with three different clinical protocols. The significant success of warm needle moxibustion in achieving positive patient outcomes suggests that additional research into this approach to care is warranted.
A related study finds acupuncture 80.0% effective for the treatment of CFS. However, adding interferential current therapy to the treatment protocol raises the total effective rate to 93.3%. The complete recovery rate also benefitted from interferential therapy. Standard acupuncture protocols achieved a 20.0% total recovery rate within 20 acupuncture treatments for CFS patients in this acupuncture continuing education investigation. Adding interferential current therapy (ICT) increased the total recovery rate to 43.3%. The researchers conclude, “Electroacupuncture plus ICT can produce a remarkable efficacy in treating CFS.”
The Hubei University of Chinese Medicine study employed electroacupuncture protocols. Deqi was elicited using even reinforcing-reducing methods. Next, the needles were retained for 20 minutes. Based on individual patient diagnostics, between four and six acupuncture points were given electroacupuncture stimulation using a sparse-dense wave to a perceptibly tolerable intensity level. Acupuncture points needled in the study were:
A total of 5 – 7 of the acupoints were chosen for each patient using filiform needles of 0.30 mm diameter and 40 mm length to depths ranging from 1 – 1.3 cun. A total of 10 sessions comprised one course of care and two courses of care were administered.
A stereo dynamic interferential electrotherapy device was used for the ICT. Two groups of 4 X 4 cm electrodes were applied with a 5 kHz frequency. One group of electrodes was applied to the trapezius muscles and the other group was applied to the spine between acupuncture points BL15 and BL23. Intensity levels were set to patient tolerance levels wherein tingling could be felt at the site of the electrodes. ICT was applied for a total of 30 minutes per each treatment. A total of 10 ICT treatments comprised one course of care. Two courses of care were administered. A complete recovery was defined as all major symptoms and complications were completely resolved, the patient returned to a normal social life, and the patient returned to a normal work life and schedule. Achieving a total effective rate of 93.3% and a total recovery rate of 43.3% with acupuncture combined with ICT demonstrates that acupuncture plays an important role in the treatment of CFS. Furthermore, ICT demonstrates an important synergistic action when combined with acupuncture therapy.
Is How You (Don’t) Sleep Making You Sick?
We all know that there are short term problems with not getting a good night’s sleep – a lack of mental sharpness, irritability, falling asleep at inopportune times, etc. Did you know there are potential long-term risks to your health also? For instance, people who sleep less than 6 hours per night are twice as likely to have a heart attack, and four times more likely to have a stroke than those who sleep more than 6 hours. They are also at greater risk of diabetes and obesity. Extreme fatigue increases appetite and decreases metabolism, and individuals who regularly get less than 4 hours of sleep 4 nights or more a week may easily be in a pre-diabetic state.
Half of adults 55+ have at least 1 symptom of insomnia at least 3 times per week including:
– Trouble falling asleep
– Waking during the night
– Waking to early and being unable to fall back to sleep
– Not feeling refreshed upon waking
Women suffer from insomnia more than men due to pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause.
Twenty million Americans take prescription sleep pills regularly. Over $100 million is spent in the US on over the counter sleep aids per year, and that number does not include prescriptions. Drug oriented OTCs have been studied and found no more effective than a placebo. Medications alter sleeping cycles, and suppress REM sleep. This can lead to light, restless sleep with nightmares once medications end, or “REM Withdrawl Sleep.” Many individuals often return to these sleep aids, even the ones advertised as “non-habit forming,” and the cycle continues. Medications can cause long-term harm to your body. Additionally, they are expensive, and only treat the symptom of an underlying problem.
Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that the symptoms of insomnia are the branches of a disease. An imbalance in the body, usually Chi, blood, Yin, Yan, Jing, or Shen, or a major organ system (lung, liver, heart, spleen, kidney, or liver) causes the imbalance or dysfunction, and acupuncture treatments help realign the body’s systems and help you find balance once more. Additional methods in Traditional Chinese Medicine, such as herbs, may also help your body better process energy and achieve restful sleep.
The following may lead to a lack of restful sleep:
Overeating, especially protein
Irregular sleeping hours
Lack of physical exercise
Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
Sleep apnea (Associated with high blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease and stroke, emotional disturbances and even psychoses.)
Emotional or mental stress
Overstimulation to the nervous system
TV/video game excess
Lack of adequate ventilation; oxygen debt
Allergies – an increased heart rate follows exposure.
Lights left on at night (disrupts the pineal gland producing melatonin, a sleep hormone)
Temperature extremes in bed
Restless Sleepers may have excessive amounts of the following in their diets:
Heavy metals (such as mercury found in high fructose corn syrup, tuna, swordfish, and mackerel
Salt, which increases blood volume, heart output, and blood pressure.
Food additives, preservatives, and colorings
Refined carbohydrates, sugar, soda, ice cream or other sweets
They may be deficient in:
Lycopene (found in red and orange foods such as tomatoes, bell peppers)
Selenium (found in nuts, mushrooms, meat, and shellfish). Selenium helps with inflammation.
Lutein (found in green, leafy vegetables)
Iron or copper (found in shellfish, clams, lentils, nuts, and whole-grain foods). Deficiency may make it take longer to fall asleep, and sleep may be less refreshing.
The body converts tryptophan into seratonin, which is then converted into melatonin. Both make you feel relaxed and sleepy. Foods with tryptophan include bananas yogurt, dates, figs, warm milk, dairy, and turkey. These foods are metabolized best in combination with starches, which make the body release insulin. This pushes the amino acids except for tryptophan into the muscle cells, leaving the tryptophan alone in the blood stream and ready to go to the brain. Niacin, a B-vitamin, makes tryptophan work more effectively, and is found in lean meats such as canned tuna. Melatonin naturally exists in oats, sweet corn, rice, ginger, bananas, and barley.
Magnesium rich foods can also help you relax and have restful sleep. Low magnesium levels will stimulate brain-activation neurotransmitters, which leads to overstimulation of the brain. This is especially common in the elderly taking meds that may block magnesium absorption. Dried beans such as pinto and navy beans, green leafy vegetables, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, and almonds are all rich in magnesium.
Folic acid in spinach, especially if muscle cramping or restless leg syndrome keeps you awake, are good additions to your diet. Inosytol enhances REM sleep
Avoid red meat, chocolate, ham, bacon, sausages, cheese, tomatoes, which contain the CNS stimulant tyramine.
Alcohol does not, in fact, help you get a good night’s sleep. You may fall asleep easily, because alcohol turns off the hypocretin neurons which keep you awake, but it has a rebound effect and can wake you quickly.