Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)

cfs imageChronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) cannot be explained by any specific medical condition, blood test or scan, because the cause is ‘unknown’ and diagnosis is made by excluding all medical possibilities. CFS affects up to 20% of Australians, and the main criteria is “a debilitating fatigue for more than 6 months without medical cause” (Murdock 2003). CFS has also been called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID).

Extreme fatigue, fogginess, joint and muscle pain, memory loss, mood and sleep disorders, swollen glands, and low-grade fevers are the most common debilitating symptoms of CFS, and the experience of overwhelming fatigue is generally made worse after exercise or mental activity. CFS does not improve with rest and increasingly the ability to socialise, work, or pursue personal goals and hobbies gradually decreases.

The team at the Rozelle Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Centre (RACM) have a special interest in chronic fatigue and significant experience in this area.

Risk Factors for CFS
Possible risk factors may include any one or combination of the below:

  • Extreme stress and anxiety
  • Sleep disorders
  • Sleep apnea
  • A history of a virus such as flu, herpes, Ross river, Epstein Barr, and mononucleosis (glandular fever)
  • Low grade undiagnosed infections
  • A history of tick or spider bite
  • Mould and damp in the home or work place
  • Digestive disorders, food intolerances and parasites
  • Heavy metal contamination and chemical exposure
  • Night shift work
  • Being unfit and overweight
  • Exercising too much or being underweight
  • Depression
  • Swollen glands and lymph nodes at the throat, armpit, and groin
  • Chronic headaches
  • Chronic pain
  • A diet high in sugar, refined foods, alcohol, coffee, and ‘damp foods’ and low in fresh vegetables, complex carbohydrates and legumes
  • A history of long term antibiotic use
  • Alcoholism and drug addiction

1. Murdoch, JC. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The patient centred clinical method – a guide for the perplexed. Australian Family Physician 2003; 32: 883-887.
2. Chronic fatigue syndrome: Clinical practice guidelines . The Medical Journal of Australia 6 May 2002; 176 (8 Suppl): S17-S55.
3. Heim C, Wagner D, Maloney E, et al. Early adverse experience and risk for chronic fatigue syndrome. Arch Gen Psych 2006; 63: 1258-66.