What are alternative treatments for chronic fatigue?

Claims for the potential benefits of using traditional medicines in modern medical practice have again been strengthened as a recent study supports Qigong in relieving chronic fatigue.

woman practising Qigong

Craske et al conducted a study published in the Oxford Journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine on eighteen women who complain of chronic fatigue symptoms to measure the effects of regular Qigong practice on their health.

Qigong involves slow, carefully controlled physical movements, breathing exercises and meditation. In traditional Chinese medicine qi refers to the body's energy, and chronic fatigue is thus the result of lessened or unbalanced qi, which can be ameliorated through Qigong.

The study tested the reality of this claim by asking eighteen women suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and ranging in age from 25 to 55 to practice a Qigong routine for 15 minutes per day. During the experiment, the women kept a sleep diary and answered medical questionnaires in order to determine the effects of the exercise.

The questionnaires revealed good results for the volunteers, showing improvement primarily in the areas of sleep, stamina and psychological well-being. Qigong specifically improved chronic fatigue symptoms like sleep disturbances, limited mobility and pain after three months of practice.

The researchers concluded that Qigong most likely had this effect because the exercise and deep breathing may improve and increase oxygen-flow in the bloodstream, thus possibly boosting energy and assuaging pain. Qigong may also augment pain-relieving substances such as endorphins in the bloodstream and helps to boost muscle strength. According to the researchers, all of these effects can assist in relieving sleep disturbances and alleviating fatigue.

This is potentially exciting news primarily for menopausal women suffering from crashing fatigue. Women going through the menopause transition are more likely than others to complain of severe or crashing fatigue due to hormonal imbalances and chronic sleep disturbances (night sweats, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea). The 2007 Sleep in America poll, directed by the National Sleep Foundation, says that over half of American women between 55 and 64 years of age complain of insufficient or disturbed sleep more than once a week.

Researchers have also begun studying the effects of Qigong on fibromyalgia and breast cancer patients. Although further study is required, the benefits of this increasing popular type of alternative medicine appear to be substantial.