M.E. Awareness and Acupuncture

M.E. Awareness and Acupuncture

May 9th to the 15th marks ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) Awareness Week in the UK. ME affects around 250,000 people in the UK and the demographic is predominantly female. ME is sometimes referred to/has similarities with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS) and Long Covid. Characterized by exhaustion that is not helped by rest, ME leaves 1 in 4 people being house or bed bound.

Causes can range from a viral infection, bacterial infection and hormone or immune system imbalance. In the case of infections, the onset can be traced back to a bout of illness where one has “never been well since”. On occasion, the onset can be triggered by antibiotics or other medications.

Mainstream treatment is limited and can include anti-depressants, pain killers and graded exercise therapy. Nutritional/lifestyle support may be suggested but accessibility and affordability may make it hard to access.

When I first started practising acupuncture as a student in my 3rd year at university, a pivotal moment was my working with a patient who had complex health conditions including an ME diagnosis (Since having malaria twice and subsequent drug therapy). I became fascinated by how pathology lingers within the body and was quickly disappointed in not only how my patient had been unable to find answers within Western medicine (WM), but also how some common systems of Chinese medicine, (CM) provided unsatisfactory explanations for the mechanism and treatment of lingering pathology.

This was the beginning of my journey into Classical Chinese Medicine and the Complement Channels. Knowledge of these channels was largely lost in the 11th and 12th centuries and is fundamental in understanding how the body triages pathology away from the Organs, in acute and chronic illness. Lineage-based acupuncturists trained in their use have a rare understanding of the theory of disease progression and the mechanisms of how pathology remains latent or lingering.

The ancient Chinese drew inspiration from their environment, observing processes found in nature, and applied those same principles to what happens internally within us. (The microcosm reflecting the macrocosm) Pathogens are described as Wind, Cold, Dampness, Dryness, Heat and Fire. I have found their understanding of the body in this way to be illuminating, often providing a cohesive and viable explanation for various processes, that is sometimes lacking in Western science.

Recovery from lingering pathology can be a long process that also requires changes to diet and lifestyle. In many cases, pathology has settled into the joints and/or become trapped in the exterior, in the form of what we call “Damp” in Chinese Medicine. This gives rise to symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, exhaustion, brain fog, muscle and joint pain, poor memory, and concentration, radiating pain, dull aches, neuropathy, and tingling.

The nature of Damp is heavy, sticky and difficult to get rid of. Patients sometimes describe their head as feeling wrapped in a damp cloth and their legs, as if walking through treacle. Damp trapped within the body is compounded by eating foods of a Damp nature and living in a Damp environment. Damp foods are heavy, and sticky and cause congestion, restricting the free movement of Blood and Qi around the body. Sugar, dairy, gluten, alcohol, fried or rich foods and overeating can all lead to a worsening of Damp accumulation.

People who suffer from ME or similar may experience “flare-ups”; including intensification of symptoms, feeling like they have flu or an increase in Heat type symptoms. In contrast to what one would usually think, in Classical Chinese thought; this is not a sign of the body getting worse. This is perceived as the body winning in its battle against the lingering pathogen. If we understand inflammation as a game of push hands between our “protective Qi” (Wei Qi) and a pathogen; when we have fewer symptoms the pathology is winning and sinking deeper into the body. When we have more symptoms, this is a sign that the body is mounting a response and trying to push pathology out. A flare-up will happen when the body has more resources, not less.

As Classical Acupuncturists, we endeavor to support the body, always trying to work with it, rather than against it. We utilize cupping therapy, guasha, moxibustion, needles and Chinese dietary therapy to move congestion & stagnation and build mediumship (Blood, Qi and fluids) and resources within a person. We help patients create a realistic diet plan to increase hydration whilst removing as many challenging and Damp forming foods, with as little labour as possible. (A slow cooker is a great idea here).

Central to treatment is the use of burning mugwort herb near the skin, known as moxibustion (“moxa”), as it nourishes tissues and warms the body. Moxa was first mentioned in the Ma Wang-tui texts of 168 B.C. and is used to dispel pathogens such as Damp and Cold, whilst invigorating the flow of Qi and Blood in the body. It is indicated in a wide range of conditions including ME and muscular and joint pain.

Acupuncture and its adjunct techniques can be an invaluable tool in supporting a person on their journey to wellness. By building up resources within a person, the body is more able to either push lingering pathology out or retain it at a deeper level where it can “be held” without creating symptoms.


If you would like to know more or to book in with our Acupuncturist Anna Wells, please contact her via her page https://centreforintegralhealth.com/about-us/our-practitioners/anna-wells-1/

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About the Centre

The Centre for Integral Health was started in 2013 by director Ben Calder after studying Integral theory since 2011 and over 10 years of professional practice of kinesiology and Bowen fascia Release Technique, coupled with the desire to explore the application of the Integral Model in relation to health.

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