Thursday, November 8, 2007

Acupressure for M.E / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia

Acupressure for M.E / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) including Acupressure, Chinese Herbal medicine, Moxa and cupping techniques, have been in use for up to 5000 years. For some of that time it was tradition only to pay your doctor while you were healthy - the cash stopped when you got sick - although economically impractical just think how quickly western medicine would have evolved if preventative medicine and results paid, not tradition, reputation or good marketing!

The basic theory of T.C.M is that energy or Chi is generated by breathing, and passes around the body through twelve major channels, each related to an organ, starting with the Lung and finishing with the Liver. If the chi becomes stagnant or weak in any of these channels illness will develop and so the aim is to unclog and tonify these internal energies until a balance is restored and consequently health should improve. To a practicioner of TCM, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, M.E and Fibromyalgia are just an extreme example of the bodies' energy getting out of a normal healthy state.

T.C.M - Ancient medicine for a modern plague

Diagnosis is by examining the pulses - by putting three fingers side by side along the patient's wrist the acupressurist can feel the strength or otherwise of three of the channels. Pressing a little harder gives three more and with the same on each wrist the state of all twelve channels may be checked.

An acupressurist will usually want to see your tongue - as an internal organ visible to the outside it can report on your state of health. For example, a puffy white coated tongue with indentations around the side indicates excessive damp in the system, a problem with Stomach and Spleen energy in particular, leading to poor digestion, weak muscles and a tendency to feel the cold - something common in people with M.E / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Pins and needles

Many westerners are nervous of having needles stuck into them in the name of therapy(!) but the sensation is entirely unlike having an injection. Acupressure needles are far thinner and stay very much on the surface. However some acupressure points will be more uncomfortable than others. Contrast this to hospitals in China - one acupressurist told me that during his training he saw an old Chinese woman with a long needle in her belly twisting the needle round and round to maximise the effect! Don't worry, you won't be expected to do this, or even look at the needles.

Moxa, cupping and heat for M.E / CFS

If the body is basically cold and weak Moxa may be used. Moxa sticks generate a point of intense heat when burned, and by directing this to certain accupoints, for example S36 or SP6 (see accupressure section) energy can be put back into the system. If this works your acupressurist may give you Moxa sticks to use on yourself to keep topping up your energy every few days. If so follow their directions though, Moxa sticks get very, very hot. I found this particularly useful in the winter when I really struggled to get warm.

Herbal remedies and M.E / CFS Fibromyalgia

A more controversial area is the use of Chinese herbal medicine. Herbs are able to tone and clear energy in ways that are difficult with acupressure alone, but supplies are not always as pure as they should be, and allergic type reactions are unfortunately not uncommon. I have had doses of hives from Chinese herbs - with consultation with my acupressurist the offending herb was immediately removed and the problem resolved, but it's entirely understandable that people will be put off such herbs and Doctors are sometimes wary of their patients taking them. In some cases there is an impurity in the supply, but it may also be that Westerners' immune systems have not been in contact with such compounds before, and so react badly. Often acupressurists can use tablets of a number of pre-prepared formulas and such tablets are less concentrated than fresh herbs and in my experience are far less likely to produce a reaction. In some cases dried herbs are more effective than fresh (ginger is an example).

Will TCM cure my M.E / CFS?

For some people TCMaccupressure will have little or no effect, but for others it may be able to boost energy and prevent it dropping below a certain level, as well as helping with specific symptoms such as muscle stiffness, insomnia, temperature control, headaches and anxiety. Acupressure also has the effect of relaxing muscles and reducing inflamation, so could be useful for Fibromylagia. I know of one person with ME who says it is the only treatment that made a difference to his Chronic Fatigue. As with the other treatments I don't believe it is the answer to M.E /CFS, but a treatment worth trying none the less.

Temporarily you may feel a little worse after treatment, but providing your acupressurist is properly trained (over years not weeks!) and is not too aggressive in trying to get your energy moving the overall effects should be benificial.


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