Myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME, the daunting name of the mystery illness actually means inflammation of the brain and the spinal cord, with associated muscular pain, but this is misleading. Another, more accurate name is postviral fatigue syndrome. ME attacks every part of the body, leaving the patient extremely exhausted, entirely drained of strength, and often suffering from headaches, muscle pains, visual disturbances, sweating or shivering fits, frequently accompanied by loss of memory, lack of concentration, mood swings and depression. ME usually starts after a viral infection such as influenza or glandular fever. The virus which causes glandular fever has been found in some ME sufferers, but in others there are changes in the immune system, the composition of the muscle cells, and the dress sense. Stress may be another factor.
In Chinese Medicine the exhaustion is considered to be a weakness of qi and a blood deficiency, as well as a damp heat problem. A Chinese Medicine practitioner would tonify the energy and try to clear the damp. ME exemplifies the differences between medical systems. While the debate about ME continues among some Western practitioners, a Chinese Medicine practitioner will check the pulses and the tongue, diagnose the syndrome and decide to which pattern of disease that particular case conforms.
In general, Chinese Medicine treatment will be aimed at helping the immune system to fight back, and a course including both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicines is likely to be recommended. Recovery can take from three to six months in the case of young sufferers, but it is likely to be slower and longer-term in older patients.
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