Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
About the Condition
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is characterized by unexplained, persistent fatigue for 6 months or more, along with at least 4 specific signs and symptoms. These signs and symptoms often include loss of memory or concentration, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, unexplained muscle pain, wandering joint pain, a new type of headache, and refreshing sleep. Patients with CFS may also experience extreme exhaustion lasting over 24 hours after physical or mental exercise. “Brain fog” or difficulty with word finding and substitution, poor short-term memory and poor concentration is another common symptom associated with CFS.
CFS, similar to fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome, is a syndrome that can be explained as a fuse blown out inside the body. This type of disorder can have many causes such as infections, disrupted sleep, pregnancy, hormonal deficiencies, toxins and other physical or situational stresses. The “blown fuse” represents the hypothalamus, a region of the forebrain that controls sleep and hormonal functions. As a result of this blown fuse, patients generally have poor sleep as well as hormonal, autonomic and temperature dysregulation. Additionally, they may also experience mitochondrial disruption. Research in genetic mitochondrial diseases shows not only muscle changes, but marked hypothalamic disruption as well.
Integrative therapy for CFS is shown to have a 90% improvement rate through the SHINE approach. SHINE represents sleep, hormonal dysfunction (thyroid, adrenal, DHEA, estrogen), immune dysfunction and infections, nutritional support, and exercise. 8 hours of sleep per night is highly encouraged in treating CFS. It’s beneficial to adjust the dose of sleeping aids as needed to obtain these 8 hours of sleep without waking. Supplements and pharmaceuticals can also aid in sleep therapy such as Hydroxytryptophan, Melatonin, Zolpidem, Trazodone, Clonazepam, and Gabapentin at bedtime. Hormonal treatments vary depending on the patient, however a common medication used is Hydrocortisone. For the immune dysfunction and infections aspect of treatment, health care professionals often have patients avoid sweets and may suggest taking probiotics. A high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet rich in fruits and vegetables is strongly encouraged as well. Physicians recommend exercise to patients with a goal of 10,000 steps a day. The patient should increase the exercise level only to a point they are comfortable. Increasing exercise too quickly can cause a flare of fatigue.
Psychological well being is also an important factor to take into consideration while treating CFS. Any positive mind-body therapy is extremely beneficial to patients with CFS. A common profile seen in patients with CFS is a “mega-type-A” overachiever who, because of childhood low-self esteem, overachieves to gain approval. Often times these patients tend to be perfectionists and have difficulties setting boundaries. They say yes when they feel like saying no and instead of responding to their bodies’ signal of fatigue by resting, they redouble their efforts. It’s crucial for these patients to take time to rest and stay away from abusive personal relationships. As they start to feel better, patients with CFS need to take it slow and keep away from toxic environments and over functioning.
Treatment Options for CFS
Individuals with CFS display a wide range of patterns and severity of symptoms. Almost all treatment options for this condition focus on symptom relief. Considering this condition affects patients in many different ways, treatment options will vary and will be tailored to the specific symptoms the patient is experiencing. Often times treatment will be directed toward the most problematic conditions as highlighted by the patient. The Integrative Medicine center offers several different services used to treat CFS including acpuncture, craniosacral therapy, massage therpay, and physical therapy. Below are specific approaches in treating CFS that have proven to be beneficial in improving symptoms that patients often experience.
Acupuncture for CFS
Many types of acupuncture have been shown to be effective at improving symptoms of CFS. While one type of acupuncture may not be effective for everyone with CFS, different types can be experimented until an effective form is identified. Acupuncture is not considered a cure for CFS; however, it does have the potential to encourage natural healing within the body, dramatically improving a patient’s life. Chinese acupuncturists have discovered that patients with CFS have either an overabundance or a deficiency or qi in their kidneys, spleen, liver, and lungs. As a result, an imbalanced qi contributes to CFS and often times other illnesses as well. Qi, also known as the vital energy that flows through the body, can be balanced by acupuncture. By balancing the qi, patients suffering from CFS will experience a reduction in their overall symptoms.
Furthermore, acupuncturists have found that patients with CFS may also have deficiencies in their yin or yang. It’s important that these types of energies are perfectly balanced in order to function harmonically. Correcting this imbalance or deficiency of yin and yang through acupuncture allows practitioners to boost patient’s immune systems. During acupuncture sessions, endorphins are released, encouraging the body to produce natural antibodies, therefore improving fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, aches and pains, sleep dysfunction, and several other symptoms associated with CFS.
Craniosacral Therapy for CFS
Craniosacral therapy is a gentle, non-invasive, hands-on healing modality that focuses on the wave-like rhythmic pulse that goes through the entire body. This type of therapy can be particularly beneficial for patients with CFS. It works gently to build up health and vitality and enables deep rest as well as recovery. Craniosacral treatment is supportive and holistic, following the priorities and pace that your body determines, making it will suited to patients who are experiencing clusters of symptoms unique to themselves. As a result of craniosacral therapy many patients feel an immediate relief of symptoms including muscle and joint pain or anxiety. After a few sessions, patients soon notice improvements in their sleep patterns and ability to rest deeply allowing their health to build. Craniosacral therapy may support an attitude shift in patients toward a more direct and intimate sense of their own wellbeing, a feeling of “being more at peace with oneself.” It may also support a natural shift of self-acceptance, a more natural capacity of loving relations, and a sense of being connected to life.
Reiki for CFS
Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If ones “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy. This method involves a series of hand positions used either directly on or just above the body. During Reiki treatments, the practitioner allows energy to flow from their own body to yours, drawing off the amount of energy your body needs.
This technique is especially beneficial in treating CFS by allowing you to become more balanced, less stressed out, and more relaxed. Often times it gives you more energy assisting you in feeling more creative and connected to the world. Reiki reduces pain and enhances range of movement. It’s also used to treat complications with sleep patterns and weakened immune systems. Overall, Reiki treatments are known to significantly improve your overall sense of well-being.
Collaborative Teamwork Protocol
Individuals experiencing symptoms of CFS should be evaluated by a medical practitioner to obtain any necessary diagnostic procedures. Once a diagnosis is made, medical practitioners are able to discuss beneficial treatment options that are available to the patient. Patients will be given a treatment plan that will include the specific method, length/duration of treatment, and refer them to a practitioner that can provide the appropriate treatment according to the patients preference and severity of the condition. When the treatment recommended is completed, a follow up consultation with the medical practitioner is highly suggested to examine whether the treatment is improving the patients condition or if further treatment options are necessary. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can be dramatically improved with assistance from a collabortative and integrative medical team.