‘IT’ can start creeping slowly into our lives, can increase steadily after experiencing a common cold, or can knock us for six from one day to the next. You may be aware of other niggling, non-specific friends coming along with ‘IT’: sleep disturbances, achiness, mental fog, apathy, nervousness.
‘IT’ was a female thing in the past (busy mums, hormonal changes) but is truly democratic now. ‘IT’ can affect everyone including children (1).
One thing is for sure: exhaustion and tiredness are happening on a grand scale and are here to stay.
Some blame the relentless business of our modern lives (2). The effect of technology impacting our lives at all hours is well documented, and is now known to cause measurable changes in our circadian cycles (3), which affect energy levels.
Over the last two decades, there have been significant developments in understanding chronic tiredness. Once thought to be an aspect of depression, now medical literature recognises Chronic Fatigue as an independent syndrome, characterised by cycles of extreme tiredness not relieved by rest. While still controversial in medical literature, recently Adrenal fatigue has emerged as an independent syndrome.
There are many common autoimmune conditions that can cause chronic fatigue: Rheumatoid arthritis, Hypothyroidism, Lupus and Sarcoidosis. If you experience more persistent tiredness, it is very important to discuss this with your GP, and to rule out these or other possible systemic conditions as causes, such as undiagnosed coeliac disease, sleep apnoea or narcolepsy.
It may be worth keeping a diary with a tally of symptoms (frequency, exacerbations, noting any stresses in your life at the time), and using a numerical scale to score the symptoms. This can help you to see patterns over time or correlations with life-events, and enable you and your GP to see these more objectively.
Traditional acupuncturists are trained to a high standard in both Classical Chinese and biomedical models. Taking a comprehensive, system-based medical history, exploring any relevant signs and symptoms from head to toe, allows us both to formulate a treatment strategy from the Chinese Medical system of correspondences, and to spot possible signs of conditions that need prompt referral and liaison with your GP.
As well as giving you a treatment based exclusively on your presentation (rather than in a formulaic set of points for ‘tiredness’) a Traditional Acupuncturist will work alongside you to establish lifestyle changes that in turn support the treatment you are receiving.
In Chinese Medicine and its foundational Daoist philosophy, human well-being is viewed as dependent on the balance between the body’s own influences or microcosm, and those assimilated from outside the body, or wider world macrocosm.
In order to maintain health and prevent disease, humans have to achieve a harmonic conduct of life, seeking to be moderate in all activities, and to balance external and internal factors. This includes adapting daily life to the changes of seasons; avoiding excesses in the diet and regulating the intake of food; physical cultivation and self-massage. These practices are encapsulated under the term yang sheng, ‘nurturing life’.
Sun Simiao, the greatest 7th century Daoist physician tells us:
“The way of nurturing life is to strive constantly for minor exertion but never to become greatly fatigued and force what you cannot endure. Moreover, running water does not grow stale, the pivot of the door does not get bug-infested. The reason for this is that they move” (4).
Movement is understood not only as physical, but also as movement of the mind: ideas, thoughts, emotions, that if ‘stuck’ (for example, in overthinking or constantly worrying) can prevent someone from obtaining proper rest and replenishment.
Hence, great importance is placed on meditative practices aiming at cultivating the mind, primarily through Qigong practices. These consist of both dynamic and standing breathing exercises aiming at quieting the mind and connecting with our bodies. They are not difficult to learn, don’t require any special clothing or gear, and can be incorporated into daily life, including when you feel a dip in your energy levels. Among many health benefits Qigong has shown to be effective in improving tiredness (5).
Change is available to all of us, whether taken in big or small steps. Bringing attention to how we live is a suitable starting point.
Testimonial, N, 32 years old
“I first came to Valeria four years ago. Struggling with tiredness, migraines and an indefinable feeling of being unwell. I was advised to try acupuncture by family members who had found it helpful. The treatment not only included the needles, but we also talked about all various kinds of aspects about my health: my cycle, flu or colds, headaches, muscle aches, eating habits, exercise plan, etc. Through writing a detailed journal, I could not only follow my progress, but I became more aware of my body. Whereas my migraines improved through my regular visits to Valeria I became more aware of other symptoms, which prompted me to visit my GP to take some tests. I was then diagnosed with both hypothyroidism and rheumatoid arthritis.
Living with these chronic illnesses, going to acupuncture has been extremely important. While I no longer go as regularly, Valeria’s knowledge of my whole medical history is extremely helpful. The treatment itself is not only a break in a busy everyday life: I feel the physical changes from the treatment, helps my issues with joint, muscle-pain and fatigue. But also, the advice I get on diet, exercise, lifestyle are always tailored specially to my needs and condition. Most recently, Valeria made me realise that I have very unhealthy sleeping patterns, and changing when I go to sleep, and my routine before going to bed, has given me so much more energy. Acupuncture has helped me cope and manage my chronic conditions. I am healthier, sleep better, eat better, and have far less muscle and joint pain. It is always a pleasure to visit Valeria”.
Valeria Frank – Acupuncturist at Shine on the Green
Living Well Living strong, by Peter Deadman https://peterdeadman.co.uk/live-well-live-long/
- Parslow RM,Harris S, Broughton J, et al. Children’s experiences of chronic fatigue syndrome/ myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME): a systematic review and meta-ethnography of qualitative studies. BMJ Open 2017;7:e012633. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016- 012633
- Gregory D. M. Potter, Debra J. Skene, Josephine Arendt, Janet E. Cade, Peter J. Grant, Laura J. Hardie; Circadian Rhythm and Sleep Disruption: Causes, Metabolic Consequences, and Countermeasures. Endocr Rev 2016; 37 (6): 584-608. doi: 10.1210/er.2016-1083
- Gregory D. M. Potter, Debra J. Skene, Josephine Arendt, Janet E. Cade, Peter J. Grant, LauraJ. Hardie; Circadian Rhythm and Sleep Disruption: Causes, Metabolic Consequences, and Countermeasures. Endocr Rev 2016; 37 (6): 584-608. doi: 10.1210/er.2016-10835.http://www.meresearch.org.uk/what-is-me/
- Wilms S, Nurturing life in Classical Chinese Medicine: Sun Simiao on Healing without drugs, transforming bodies and cultivating life. JCM 2010 (93)
5.Jahnke R, Larkey L, Rogers C, Etnier J, Lin F. A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi. American journal of health promotion : AJHP. 2010;24(6):e1-e25. doi:10.4278/ajhp.081013-LIT-248.