Osteopathy Treats Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

By Dr Guy Ashburner | September 3, 2011

Osteopathy Treats Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

When blood and lymphatics flow freely, the tissues can perform their physiologic functions without impedance. With the occurrence of trauma (physical or emotional), the tissues contract, twist, and compress. The fluid flow becomes obstructed. Micro-climates of underperfusion result, and are considered to be a significant contributor to the onset of disease. Osteopathic manipulation restores freedom in the tissues, normalizes fluid flow and thus inherent physiologic function (healing) follows.

Dr. A.T. Still M.D.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is also known as chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) which is a group of symptoms associated with unrelenting and debilitating fatigue. The profound weakness of CFS causes a persistent and substantial reduction in activity level. You feel too tired to do normal activities or are easily exhausted for no apparent reason.

There are many symptoms associated with chronic fatigue, but disabling fatigue and exhaustion are most prominent. Presence of at least four of the following symptoms concurrently may indicate CFS: Impaired short-term memory and concentration, frequent or recurring sore throat, headaches, pain that moves from one joint to another without swelling or redness, unexplained muscle pain, enlarged/tender lymph nodes in the neck or armpit, unrefreshing sleep and extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise. All sufferers of this debilitating illness appear to have upper back problems, either through previous injury or chronic postural strain. It has been suggested that the chronic stiffness in this part of the spine leads to irritation of the sympathetic nervous system with which this area is closely linked.

Fatigue can be a symptom of many illnesses, such as infections or psychological disorders. In general, see your doctor if you have persistent or excessive fatigue.

Different factors whether physical, allergic, environmental toxins such as pesticides, emotional or infectious (viruses and bacteria) lead to an overstimulation of the sympathetic (autonomic) nervous system.  This leads to congestion of the lymphatic system which should normally drain out into the lymph vessels and be broken down by the body’s lymphatic system and liver. The resultant backflow engorges the lymphatic vessels, especially in the chest and neck eventually leads to accumulation of toxins in the brain, which cause the fatigue. Similarly toxin build-up in the muscles and joints can lead to pain and weakness.

An imaging study  by Stanford University School of Medicine is now providing hope for better understanding—and potentially better diagnosing—the disease. It has revealed a striking pattern of brain inflammation in CFS patients.

Also osteopathic research at the University of Salford which included imaging and case studies suggested a link between the disturbance of the drainage of toxins from the brain and muscles and CFS.  This was found to be associated with signs, including disturbed spinal posture, swollen lymph vessels and specific tender points related to sympathetic nerve disturbance and backflow of lymphatic fluid.

Osteopathic treatment focuses on trying to normalise cranial and lymphatic drainage and improve spinal mechanics.  This in turn reduces the strain on the sympathetic nervous system.  This is achieved through thorough history, examination and osteopathic treatment incorporating cranial osteopathy, lymphatic drainage and postural advice.

There is unfortunately no easy cure for CFS, and sometimes the most successful treatment is one of coping and symptom alleviation.  It requires guidance and patient commitment.


View a list of common complains that Osteopathy can assist with

Discovery the benefits of Osteopathy