As a practitioner of Chinese medicine, I work with many patients who are flat out tired. They struggle to get out of bed in the morning, poop out at night, or don’t have the energy to do the things they want to do throughout the day. Some come to me because exhaustion is their chief complaint; for others fatigue is a secondary symptom of something else going on. Regardless of how it manifests, there are many, many tired people just trying to get through the day.
I know all about exhaustion. Several years ago after major surgery, I was sent home to heal. After a couple of weeks, I was up and about and feeling pretty chipper, with one exception. Every evening after dinner, I experienced exhaustion so profound that that I could barely move. The only thing I could do was go to bed and crash. This fatigue lasted for almost a year after the surgery, but when it finally resolved, I knew that my healing was complete.
What’s interesting to me is that almost every patient I see is clueless as to why they’re so tired. This may be because the underlying cause can be seemingly unrelated to a patient’s symptoms. Most people think lack of sleep is the most common reason that they’re tired. While poor sleep can make you feel exhausted, there are many other causes of of fatigue. Here’s my short list:
-A recent illness or surgery. Your body is programmed to heal, but it takes a lot of energy to do so. It’s common to feel exhausted after an accident, illness, or surgery because all of your energy reserves are going toward putting you right. In addition, if there was blood loss involved, as in the case of surgery, it’s more likely that you will feel fatigued for some time–even years–afterward.
-Childbirth. Like an illness or surgery, it takes many months to regain your energy after giving birth. The actual event, coupled with blood loss and sleepless nights can leave new moms exhausted for as long as the first year of their baby’s life.
-Poor diet. You get your energy from the food you eat. If you’re not eating well, it’s like putting bad gas in your car’s tank–you won’t run well, either.
-Poor digestion. Your body converts food into nutrients and energy through the process of digestion. You can eat the best food in the world, but if your digestion is funky, it can leave you feeling depleted and tired. Signs that things aren’t going well gut-wise include heartburn, gas, bloating, stomachaches, nausea, loose stools, constipation, and lack of appetite.
-Overwork. Considered to be an underlying cause of illness and depletion in Chinese medicine, working long hours without a break can lead to exhaustion. Even when you’re getting enough sleep, working, studying, caretaking, or overexercising can translate into exhaustion.
-Stress. Unrelenting stress affects everything from your muscles to your mood to your digestion. Over time, stress has the ability to deplete you at the deepest level, causing an exhaustion so profound that it can take months to recover.
-Stagnation. This is a term in Chinese medicine in which your energy just isn’t moving well. Stagnation is a little like a car’s engine that is seizing up, and can be the cause of a host of different symptoms. Physically, stagnation causes pain, poor digestion, menstrual symptoms, and muscle tightness. Emotionally, stagnation manifests as stress, frustration and depression. The link between stagnation and fatigue is simple: if your energy is all bound up, it’s not available to fuel your daily activities.
If you can’t muster the energy to get through the day, Chinese medicine and acupuncture has a lot to offer. At Acupuncture in the Park, our first order of business is to identify the cause. Our goal is to eliminate what’s wiping you out as well as to rebuild your energy stores. We have a number of tools to work with, including acupuncture, Chinese herbal formulas, food therapy, heat therapy, and lifestyle changes. You don’t have to walk through life like a zombie–acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help!