Last Updated: 21 January 2016 21 January 2016
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Health Care Providers: Please see the information in the ME/CFS: A Primer for Clinical Practitioners.
Some of the most commonly explored alternative therapies to supplement treatment and management of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) or Fibromyalgia (FM) are reviewed in this section.
Since the first four therapies need to be administered by specially trained practitioners, it is recommended that patients review these with their primary care doctors in order to determine which ones will be the safest and most effective for their particular problems.
- Acupuncture—originates from traditional Chinese medicine and treatments involve small needles that are inserted at chi points, to improve flow of vital energy. Used for pain reduction, improve immune system function and recovery from injuries and illness (though it does not follow a conventional view about illness).
- Chiropractic care—a medical discipline using manual manipulation of spine and joints for the primary purpose of restoring proper nerve function believed to be at the core of many health problems. Many people with all sorts of medical problems use it for pain relief and better function of nervous system.
- Physical Therapy—a health system which helps to restore use and function or improve a physical problem through various hands-on techniques, exercises, and/or equipment. Therapists will help patients improve posture, overall movement and bring them to their best level of function. They will also prescribe an exercise program to be done at home. It is essential that you find a physical therapist who understands ME/CFS and FM, so that you will not be required to overdo and crash. FM patients can usually tolerate exercise better than ME/CFS patients.
- Several other systems one might consider looking into are Feldenkrais (a system centered on movement), Bowen Therapy (bodywork focused on the release of muscles and impinged nerves), and therapeutic massage therapy.
The next group of techniques and programs are self-managed (meaning patients are instructed, but carry out the techniques by themselves). These are usually done in a group setting, but can be practiced at home. The primary consideration is to find instructors who will work with people at all levels of health and age, and who oversee that the exercises are being properly done.
- Meditation, visualization and/or guided imagery—ways by which people can release stress and relax by practicing mindfulness, concentrated focus, breathing techniques, and using positive thoughts and images in order to respond to illness, pain and daily stress. One of the most recognized programs is the one created by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. Some hospitals or wellness clinics may offer workshops on this method but there are also books and audio tapes and CDs people can buy for home use.
- Qigong—an ancient Chinese practice consisting of gentle/ fluid movements, controlled breathing, and meditative techniques with the primary focus on developing internal energy. Tai Chi is related to it, but this practice is more rooted in martial art principles and some might find it difficult to learn because of movement coordination. Both can help to release stress and stimulate energy.
- Yoga—many modified forms have emerged from this ancient Hindu discipline which focuses mainly on certain types of stretching and holding of postures as well as breathing awareness and control. This practice will generally can help to improve inner balance and overall flexibility.
"Alternative and Supplementary Approaches" on pp. 25-26 of ME/CFS: A Primer for Clinical Practitioners
A Minimal and Achievable Exercise Program by Dr. Nancy Klimas
Complementary and Mainstream Treatment Approaches by Dr. Jeanne Hubbuch
Dr. Lapp's Stepwise Approach to Managing FM and ME/CFS
Exercise and CFIDS by Diane Gallagher, a certified fitness instructor
Nutrition and Exercise
Rest, Pacing and Stress—What Every ME/CFS Patient Should Know by Dr. Sarah Myhill
Review of Nutritional Supplements Used for ME/CFS/FM
Supplements —a summary of supplements used to improve sleep, energy, strength and mitochondrial function
Treatment with supplements of post-exertional malaise and mitochondrial dysfunction and living in the "energy envelope" advice