Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complex disease characterised by unexplained, debilitating persistent fatigue for more than six month and accompanied by mental and nerve symptoms as well as flu like symptoms. It does not threaten life in a short term but it interferes considerably with the patients’ daily activities, study and work. Its clinical manifestations often include anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, poor memory and concentration, headache, dizziness, musculoskeletal pain, sore throat and low grade fever.
CFS is a critical status between health and sickness and becomes a hot point in medical study in the twenty first century and its incidence is increasing year by year often due to faster rhythms of life in modern society. Although it is suggested it might be related to mental stress, endocrine and immunological abnormalities, viral infections and autonomic nervous system dysfunction, there are currently no definite pathological mechanisms or specific treatment protocols for CFS.
Acupuncture and other Chinese therapies, such as cupping, moxibustion (moxa) and tuina, either used in conjunction or on its own have shown to be an effective and reliable treatment for common symptoms of CFS. Therefore relevant observational studies and randomized controlled trials are summarised as follows:
Clinical Observation on Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome by Acupuncture and Cupping
The purpose of this study by Wang et al (2006) was to observe the therapeutic effects of specific acupuncture points on the Governing Vessel and Bladder Channels combined with cupping therapy on CFS patients. Although a small study sample of 25 cases were treated and compared to a control group of 25 using Chinese herbs, a significant difference in the therapeutic effects between the two groups was reported after three durations of treatment (5 times made up 1 course of treatment): Acupuncture effectiveness was 92.0% compared to the control group of 64.0%, concluding that Acupuncture in combination with cupping therapy is effective in treating CFS. (Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science 4 (3), 162-163).
The two channels were chosen due to both, its location of sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve centres and its significant therapeutic effects according to Chinese medicine principles. Consequently, regulating unitary and inherent mechanisms and hormonal levels and stimulating factors of the nerve and body fluid systems.
Clinical Study on Tuina and Moxibustion for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
A recent study by Zeng et al (2012) exploring the effects of tuina and moxibustion (moxa) on thirty CFS patients, giving three treatments per week during four consecutive weeks using a randomized grouping with no dropouts, suggests that combined use of tuina and moxibustion can produce better results than ordinary acupuncture. (Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science 10 (5), 296-299).
Randomized controlled clinical trials of acupuncture treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome
A randomized controlled trial by Wang et al (2009) observing the effects of acupuncture on the fatigue severity in 70 CFS patients, divided into a treatment and control group, using acupuncture points and non-acupuncture points respectively, with a total of 14 treatments, concluded that acupuncture can relieve physical and mental fatigue in patients with CFS with a greater therapeutic effect in reducing mental fatigue with acupuncture points compared to non-acupuncture points. (Zhen ci yan jiu Acupuncture research 34 (2), 120-4).