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Alternative Treatments and Complementary Approaches for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Myalgic Encephalomyelitis


By Erica Verrillo*

The terms complementary (aka integrative, holistic) and alternative medicine refer to medical practices that are not usually found in standard medical care. While alternative medicine replaces standard medical care, complementary medicine is a compromise, employing standard techniques along with alternative therapies. For example, an acupuncturist provides alternative care. But when acupuncture is used by an oncologist together with standard treatment to help with the side effects of cancer, acupuncture becomes part of complementary medicine.

Some of the more accepted forms of alternative medicine, such as chiropractic and acupuncture, have become mainstream, and are covered by insurance in many states.

Alternative Treatments in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

People with ME/CFS routinely utilize alternative approaches to address some of their most pressing symptoms, such as sleep disorder and pain. Alternative approaches can also be used to address the mechanisms that are believed to drive the illness: immune dysregulation, hormonal imbalances, metabolic disruption, inflammation, allergies, and so on.

A survey conducted by the CFIDS Association of America in 2013 found that more than 70% of ME/CFS patients take nutritional supplements and employ non-drug therapies such as diet modifications, rest, taking naps and activity modification to treat their symptoms. Almost half used alternative therapies such as massage therapy, yoga, acupuncture and meditation to treat ME/CFS.

Below are some of the more commonly used alternative therapies employed by ME/CFS patients to help reduce the severity and frequency of specific symptoms, as well as to address global problems such as low energy and post-exertional malaise.

  • Allergies: Provocation-Neutralization
  • Pain Relief: Acupressure and Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Massage, TENS, reflexology
  • Anxiety and Stress Reduction: Biofeedback, Meditation, Hypnosis, Yoga, Visualization and Guided Imagery
  • Detox Techniques: Perrin Technique, Chelation, Coffee Enemas
  • Immune Support: Transfer Factor, Live Cell Therapy
  • Global Support: Hydrotherapy, Hyperbaric oxygen, Ayurveda

* Erica Verrillo is ProHealth’s expert editor for the ME/CFS HealthWatch and Natural Wellness newsletters. She is the author of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Treatment Guide, 2nd Edition, available as an electronic book on Amazon,Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Payhip (PDF file). Her website,CFSTreatmentGuide.com, provides practical resources for patients with ME/CFS. She also writes a blog, Onward Through the Fog, with up-to-date news and information about the illness, as well as the full text of CFS: A Treatment Guide, 1st Edition (available in translation).


Further Reading

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

What is Integrative Medicine?

American Holistic Medical Association

Alternative Medicine and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFIDS)
Many people try variety of approaches by combining conventional and alternative care, what is now called, “intergrative”medicine.
Acupuncture Gains ‘New Scientific Heft’ – Releases Natural Pain Killer Adenosine
For those still harboring doubts about acupuncture, this discovery adds proof of local chemical release in the peripheral nervous system to recent discovery of a central nervous system endorphin response.
The efficacy of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in the management of chronic fatigue syndrome
A study conducted in Turkey finds that 15 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy improves symptoms and quality of life scores in CFS/ME patients.

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