The Benefits of Acupuncture for Chronic Fatigue Relief

By Claire Boxer

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that lasts for at least 6 months and does not improve with rest. The exact causes are unknown, though research suggests immune system abnormalities, viral infections, stress, and other medical issues could be contributors[17].

Acupuncture is growing in popularity for helping manage different types of fatigue, including CFS. During acupuncture, thin needles are inserted in strategic points along the body’s meridians to stimulate energy flow and trigger the release of pain-relieving endorphins[13]. Here’s how acupuncture may help alleviate chronic fatigue specifically:

  • Boosts energy and reduces fatigue by improving circulation and increasing blood flow [14]
  • Supports the nervous system and regulates hormones related to fatigue and stress [11]
  • Decreases inflammation associated with immune dysfunction in CFS patients [6]
  • Promotes relaxation and parasympathetic nervous system activity for better sleep quality [4]

Multiple clinical trials indicate acupuncture can reduce the severity of fatigue in CFS patients. A systematic review and meta-analysis indicated that acupuncture was more effective than sham acupuncture and other interventions, including Chinese herbal medicine, in treating CFS [1].

Moxibustion, another traditional Chinese medicine technique involving the burning of mugwort near acupuncture points, was found to be significantly better than acupuncture alone in relieving fatigue symptoms in CFS patients based on a systematic review [2].

Chinese herbal medicine has also been highlighted as a beneficial complementary approach for CFS [3][7]. Traditional Chinese mind-body exercises were reported to potentially reduce post-intervention fatigue, depression, anxiety, and may improve sleep quality and mental function in CFS patients [12].

Another study concluded that body acupuncture for four weeks, in addition to usual care, may help improve fatigue in CFS patients [5]. Even if not cured completely, most people experience noticeable improvements in endurance, concentration, and energy levels [15]. Acupuncture is very safe when performed by a licensed practitioner and makes an excellent complementary treatment alongside conventional CFS therapy [16].

[1] Acupuncture for chronic fatigue syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis – PubMed
[2] Moxibustion for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
[3] Chinese herbal medicine for the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome
[4] Effects of traditional Chinese mind-body exercises for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis
[5] Acupuncture for chronic fatigue syndrome and idiopathic chronic fatigue: a multicenter, nonblinded, randomized controlled trial
[6] Efficacy and safety of acupuncture treatment for fatigue after COVID-19 infection: study protocol for a pilot randomized sham-controlled trial
[7] Chinese herbal medicine for the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis
[11] Acupuncture and Moxibustion have Different Effects on Fatigue by Regulating the Autonomic Nervous System: A Pilot Controlled Clinical Trial – Scientific Reports
[12] Effects of traditional Chinese mind-body exercises for patients with …
[13] Acupuncture for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Does It Work?
[14] Anti-fatigue effect of traditional Chinese medicines: A review
[15] Just a moment…
[16] Is there a role for traditional and complementary medicines in managing chronic fatigue? a systematic review of randomized controlled trials
[17] Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 2024 – British Acupuncture Council

About Claire Boxer

Claire is a great acupuncturist

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