Fatigue is a symptom of many different disorders, both psychological and physical. It is often difficult to discover its cause with modern Western diagnostic methods. Fortunately, diagnosing and treating this sort of generalized complaint is one of the strong points of traditional Chinese medicine.
The first and most important step is to examine the person’s lifestyle to eliminate any possible causes of fatigue, such as lack of sleep, poor diet, insufficient exercise, or overworking. Without correcting these problems, it is difficult or impossible to restore the patient’s energy level. Once the proper lifestyle adjustments are made, treatment, particularly moxibustion and herbs are more likely to be effective.
Fatigue is different from drowsiness. In general, drowsiness is feeling the need to sleep, while fatigue is a lack of energy and motivation. Drowsiness and apathy (a feeling of indifference or not caring about what happens) can be symptoms of fatigue.
Fatigue can be a normal and important response to physical exertion, emotional stress, boredom, or lack of sleep. However, it can also be a non-specific sign of a more serious psychological or physical disorder. When fatigue is not relieved by a good night’s sleep, good nutrition, or a low-stress environment, it should be evaluated. Because fatigue is a common complaint, sometimes a potentially serious cause may be overlooked.
There are many possible physical and psychological causes of fatigue. Some of the more common are:
- Digestive disorders
- Sleep disturbance
- Ongoing pain
- Underactive thyroid
- Consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs
- Depression or grief
- Post virus
- Eating disorders
- Auto-immune disease
Chronic fatigue syndrome, (CFS), often referred to as ME or CFIDS, is a condition that starts with flu-like symptoms and typically lasts for 6 months or more. Chinese medicine and acupuncture has had a high success rate in treating CFS compared to conventional medicine. Primarily, it understands the condition as a retained pathogenic virus that the weakened body’s defences cannot expel properly. Other factors such as adrenal exhaustion and the quality of diet and lifestyle are key.
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