What is ME? In this informative blog post by our holistic therapist, Kimberley Dawn Carpenter, she’ll discuss how this debilitating condition can affect a sufferer’s life, from her own personal struggle with ME, which she developed after having glandular fever as a teenager. Kimberley wants to help others in a similar situation, as she is living proof that there is light at the end of the tunnel!
In this blog, Kimberley will also discuss some of the ME treatment options available, particularly from a complementary therapy perspective, which is how she managed to tackle her own ME and improve her wellbeing.
So what is ME? Or CFS? Or Fibromyalgia?
ME or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, is an illness with many names. Within the NHS it is commonly called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME), yet sometimes it can be known as Myalgic Encephalopathy or diagnosed as Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS).
It is an illness shrouded with confusion, and in the past was not fully understood or even recognised by many in the medical profession. You may have heard of ME, but not really know what it is. Or maybe you know someone who suffers from it, and may have seen how debilitating it can be. I know from my own experience that I went from being a fun loving, creative and active teenager on the school hockey and netball teams, part of the wind band and orchestra… to being bedridden for months on end. I can truly testify that ME certainly is real, and not to be taken lightly.
In short ME is a long-term (chronic) fluctuating illness that causes symptoms affecting many body systems, more commonly the nervous and immune systems. Many people with ME experience persistent fatigue, muscle or joint pain, but there can be many other symptoms which include:
- Muscle and joint pain – I used to feel like a marionette, like I could feel all the bones in my body and they hurt. Without the strength to move, I would lay in a heap on the sofa or bed, feeling very sorry for myself. Things ached that I didn’t know were capable of aching! Like my armpits, knee pits and groin! I later learned about the lymphatic system and the position of lymph glands around the body that corresponded to my aches perfectly, which is the system I work now as a Manual Lymphatic Drainage Therapist.
- Sleep disturbance – that’s the wonderful irony of what is ME! With a name like chronic fatigue you would think you would be asleep all the time. However this is not the case. Insomnia is quite common, and due to the long time spent resting the body and mind have not been exercised sufficiently to bring about a restful night’s sleep. I remember being so tired, yet not being able to sleep due to an aching body and restless mind… not a nice place to be at 3am.
- Flu-like symptoms (headache, sore throat, painful lymph nodes, dizziness, nausea and problems with memory/concentration) A great combination to add to the mix when your studying for your GCSEs like I was.
There is no medical laboratory test currently available to detect what is known as ME, which can make the process frustrating and unclear. Basic tests of your blood and urine can rule out other conditions. In fact, you may need to make several visits to your doctor before a final diagnosis is made, and this can be a very difficult and disheartening process.
As there is no specific cause and people suffer varying symptoms that fluctuate over time, individuals may react very differently to treatments, and some treatments work better for some people than others.
When you’re discovering what ME is and how best to manage your symptoms, there are many options available to you that aim to help you manage your condition and may even help support a full recovery. This path is a highly individual process and can take a few different attempts to find something that works for you. Treatment options include:
Diet and Nutrition: one of the main strategies in terms of eating right for ME is ensuring you support your blood sugar levels. If you eat a lot of sugary food, caffeine, alcohol or meal skip, this can imbalance your blood sugar. When your blood sugar is imbalanced, this is a stress on your body which can deplete you of nutrients, cause your energy levels to drop and imbalance your mood. Our nutritional therapist Catherine Jeans can design an individual, tailor-made nutrition program to help you manage your condition, and help you with functional tests to help understand the cause of your symptoms.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): this is a talking therapy that your GP may be able to organise for you through the NHS, and can be very supportive for symptom management. Many ME sufferers also turn to NLP, hypnotherapy or Emotional Freedom Techniques to help increase their ability to manage symptoms such as pain and anxiety, or to develop better stress management techniques. Our NLP and hypnotherapist Rick Maczka offers a free 20 minute consultation to discuss your needs.
Complementary Therapies: every complementary therapy looks at you as an individual, with the aim of finding a natural way to bring the body back into a balanced state, therefore helping to ease pain, aid sleep, stabilise emotions, lift the mood and increase general health and overall wellbeing.
At The Orange Grove Clinic, we have many complementary therapists who work with ME and CFS, including acupuncture, cranial osteopathy, Shiatsu and Reiki. I am the clinic’s Manual Lymphatic Drainage and Acupressure Therapist, which can both be very effective therapies for supporting anyone with ME.
MLD Massage – works specifically on the lymphatic/immune system of the body, stimulating the flow and release of lymphatic fluid, aiding the removal of toxins from the body. Essential oilsused in the massage can be blended to suit your body’s specific needs, to help boost the immune system, aid sleep, reduce pain, clear the mind or uplift the mood. I usually give a blend to take away, for use at home between treatments. Regular use of these oils may help to boost their therapeutic effects and can enable you to feel more in control of your own recovery, as you have something you can do for yourself at home. Empowerment is very important when you feel so out of control with a condition such as M.E.
Acupressure – can be very effective at reducing generalised or localised pain, or aches. It can be used alone or as part of a massage treatment. Points can also be taught to do at home between treatments.
The Balance Procedure – is an energy practice that helps you to identify the underlying emotional imbalances that contribute to your individual symptoms. A one off session teaches you the technique that can be done every day to balance the body and focus the mind on wellness. It is well documented that happy people recover from illness quicker. Tapping into your happiness daily helps you to connect with that feeling of joy that boosts your immune system and radiates from your every pore. Finding the joy in life when everything seems to grey can be difficult, yet this is the time you need it most.
If you are suffering from ME, Chronic Fatigue or simply feeling tired all the time, do get in touch with me at The Orange Grove Clinic. As a previous sufferer myself I understand what you are going through, and will be glad to help support you with my complementary therapies to greater health.