Does Acupuncture Help with Fatigue?
Fatigue is a tricky condition to diagnose and treat. A trip to the doctor, always a good idea when you're feeling tired, doesn't always offer a reason or solution for overwhelming fatigue. Luckily, acupuncture treatments can boost your energy level and help you feel well-rested again.
What Causes Fatigue?
Illness is one of the many causes of fatigue. Unfortunately, that tired feeling can linger long after you've mostly recovered. You may notice that you feel tired or rundown if you have chronic conditions like diabetes, thyroid disease, cancer, anemia, heart disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, or multiple sclerosis as well.
Working long hours or feeling stressed may also be factors in fatigue, as can too much or too little exercise, hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause, depression, sleep issues, poor nutrition, drug or alcohol use, and mental health disorders.
In Chinese medicine, fatigue may be related to deficiencies in the blood, lungs, liver, kidney, spleen, or pancreas, or can occur due to heat toxicity, dampness retention, phlegm obstruction, or deficiencies in Ying or Yang. Acupuncturists consider these issues and any medical conditions you may have when treating your fatigue.
7 Fatigue-Related Benefits of Acupuncture Treatment
Acupuncture treatments target the things that cause or contribute to fatigue and offer the following benefits:
- Pain Relief. Dealing with a painful disease or condition is exhausting. If the disease itself doesn't cause fatigue, medication side effects may make you feel tired. Acupuncture relieves pain naturally by focusing on Yin and Yang, two competing forces that must be balanced for good mental and physical health. Yin and Yang balance is disrupted when Qi, a life energy, becomes clogged at some point. This essential energy flows through a series of pathways in your body. Acupuncturists clear blockages and reduce pain by inserting hair-thin needles at the site of the clogged Qi.
- Reduced Stress. Acupuncture can't change the factors that make you feel stressed, but it can help you feel less stressed. Acupuncture treatments reduce production of the stress hormone cortisol and moderate the brain's stress control center. Treatments also spur the release of endorphins and serotonin, natural hormones that decrease stress and pain.
- Less Fatigue with Cancer. Cancer, and the treatments for the disease, can cause disabling fatigue both before and after treatment. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in Integrative Cancer Therapies revealed that acupuncture can markedly improve fatigue in cancer patients.
- Better Blood Flow. Your body's cells, tissues, and organs are nourished by oxygen and nutrients from your blood. As blood travels through your body, it also removes waste products that could make you feel tired or sick. Acupuncture improves blood flow by eliminating Qi blockages and relaxes blood vessels by increasing nitric oxide production.
- Reduction of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms. Chronic fatigue syndrome is a little understood condition that causes overwhelming fatigue, sore throat, sleep disturbances, headaches, joint pain, brain fog, swollen lymph nodes, and other symptoms. In a study published in the World Journal of Acupuncture, researchers studied the effects of acupuncture using the back-shu acupuncture points along the length of the spinal column. Applying acupuncture needles to these points significantly improved physical and mental fatigue in people with chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Improved Control of the Autonomic Nervous System. The autonomic nervous system controls key functions, including breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion. Issues with the autonomic nervous system can cause a variety of symptoms, including dizziness, mood swings, and fatigue. Acupuncture and moxibustion can be helpful in regulating the autonomic nervous system, according to a research study published in Scientific Reports. Moxibustion involves burning dry mugwort near specific points on the body. Researchers noted that both practices were helpful in improving fatigue in chronic fatigue syndrome patients, although moxibustion offered better long-term control.
- Balanced Hormones. Hormonal balance can be a lifelong struggle for women, as hormones fluctuate with menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. Acupuncture improves hormonal balance, relieving fatigue and other symptoms, including period pain, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), sleep problems, headaches, and migraines.
Wondering if acupuncture could improve your fatigue? Contact our office to schedule an appointment with acupuncturist.
NCBI: Integrative Cancer Therapies: The Effects of Acupuncture on Cancer-Related Fatigue: Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, 9/30/2020
World Journal of Acupuncture - Moxibustion: Acupuncture on Back-Shu Points of Five Zang for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Randomized Control Trial, 12/2018
Scientific Reports: Acupuncture and Moxibustion have Different Effects on Fatigue by Regulating the Autonomic Nervous System: A Pilot Controlled Clinical Trial, 2016
Trials: Acupuncture for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Idiopathic Chronic Fatigue: a Multicenter, Nonblinded, Randomized Controlled Trial, 6/26/2015
Acupuncture Today: Acupuncture and TCM Approaches for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, August 2005
Mayo Clinic: Fatigue, 2/11/2023