Ostheopathy and Chronic Fatigue

I have given you an account of my adventures into acupuncture, and now I have taken a leap into another homeopathic discipline.

I was raised a true ‘science person’ and so anything that isn’t traditional medicine I am naturally suspicious of. However I have spoken to many people who have had good experiences with chiropractors, and so I started looking into it. I found osteopathy to be more appealing than my original topic of chiropractors, as it seems a bit more all round and used lots of science words.

My first visit was very similar to my first acupuncture session, we spent the entire time combing through my entire life and medical history. What was my childhood like? What was I experiencing emotionally at the moment? How about physically? The big difference came in how much of a two way process this was. My osteopath, Josh, would often pause and lean back, before repeating back something I said, suddenly bringing my attention to a flaw in my thinking. Josh is very good at this, he can say something very simple and suddenly I’m thinking “really? Is that how I said that? I am looking at that so wrong!”.

For example the biggest revelation of my first session was that I was referring to my body as “it” not “me”. I had a huge disconnect between brain and body. I saw myself as my brain inhabiting a body that wasn’t doing what I wanted. Seeing that made me start to look at things in a different light, I’ve always considered managing my CFS as working in partnership with my body, so what does this mean for that?

Josh explained it as: your body senses things and then the signals are passed to your brain, so your body is always a step ahead of your mind. This means I’m now working on trusting my body and it’s reactions instead of analysing everything endlessly. I’m a bit tired? Rest. It feels good to stretch a muscle? Do it!

I know it’s sounding a bit like therapy from how I’ve described it so far, and sometimes it feels a lot like it too. The key difference is that we focus on the physical a lot of the time, although sometimes that leads us in to bottled up emotions as they cause a lot of tension in the body!

My main take away so far that I’d like to share is that with CFS we often take pain or fatigue as a sign to completely stop, but it is worth taking the time to play around with whatever you are doing. If you are standing and you get tired is there another way to stand (maybe introducing some leaning?) that could alleviate some of that? When sitting, is there an adjustment to posture that changes your aches and pains?

Josh calls this “being creative with movement” and I’ve found particularly with activities that involve a lot of standing, I am able to prolong my endurance and reduce symptoms the next day by making sure I move about a bit rather than standing totally still. It seems counterintuitive as I’ve always though more movement = more energy used = more symptoms, but actually mixing things up makes a big difference.

So would I recommend osteopathy to others with chronic conditions? Yes, it seems to help connect the dots of what you are experiencing emotionally and physically to find ways to improve symptoms. I wouldn’t expect drastic results, but new coping mechanisms are always welcome!

Acupuncture and CFS

As the child of science teacher and an engineer I am a big sceptic about homeopathy. I am of the opinion that if something works it becomes medicine, so alternative medicine must not work. However when struggling with a chronic health condition you try anything.

My encounter with acupuncture was before I was actually diagnosed with CFS, when I was stuck in the horrible limbo of feeling awful and not knowing why. My CFS initially presented as chest pain and a fatigue I put down to struggling to breath comfortably. I was desperately trying to continue my normal day to day life but my body had other ideas!

That was when someone at work who I respected and thought of as a very logical person suggested acupuncture. Immediately I was incredulous, how could someone I thought of as very smart be suggesting such a silly thing? A week later I booked an appointment. Funny how desperation overrides being stubborn!

The first session we spent 90% of the time going over why whole life, every illness, every trauma. The practitioner was very nice, she seemed to know what to ask, and was very interested in the whooping cough I’d suffered from as a child as she felt my current pain was linked back to previous experiences and traumas.

Then came the part I was dreading, I had to undress and lay on the table ready for the needles. I have had a phobia of needles since I was a child so it had taken a lot of courage to try acupuncture (okay more desperation than courage but whatever gets you through!).  I braced myself for each tiny sting as she put needles into my wrists and ankles. Inwardly I rolled my eyes, my chest hurts so you are stabbing my feet and hands? after about 6-8 needles were in place she stopped. Is that it? I’d assumed I’d be a full hedgehog.

She moved next to me and placed her hand on my sternum. Now at this point in my CFS I could not stand any pressure on my bestbone, even the tension of breathing hurt it. The doctors had been considering costochondritis, an inflammation of the connecting tissue either side of the sternum, as the potential diagnosis (later disproved by an ultrasound that showed no swelling). So when she pushed down I braced myself and tried not to whimper… but it didn’t hurt. I was in shock.

“That didn’t hurt!”

“Yes” She nodded, this is what she had expected.

“No, it really didn’t hurt!”

I have inadvertently let my shock show, revealing that I thought this was bollocks up until a moment ago. She looks mildly annoyed by hides it well.

“It actually doesn’t hurt!” I double down on insulting her profession with my shock. Usually I am much more tactful, but it’s like I’ve just seen a magician turn a skyscraper into a rabbit. How can pins in my wrists and ankles stop my chest hurting? It is so bizarre and illogical I cannot compute it, but it works. Undeniably it works.

Further research has shown that scientists agree with me, they don’t really understand why acupuncture is effective at pain relief, but it is. I’m sure all the practitioners out there would explain it’s to do with energy flow and blah blah, but my understanding of the nervous system and my experience having acupuncture just don’t line up. Does it matter? Not really, if something works for you that’s the important part, the why is just for interest.

I continued having acupuncture once a week for a few months, and found that it would relieve my pain for a few days at a time. Not a permanent solution and in the end too costly to keep up, but I will never get over the feeling of wonder I had that first session when it worked.

Depression vs my other conditions

I’ve had mental health issues since I was a teenager, but have only been honest and open about them since my early 20s. I’m now in a place where I am happy to talk to anyone about my CFS and anxiety, but my depression slightly less so.

So why am I more ok with some mental health issues than others? I feel comfortable with my anxiety because it feels reasonable, everyone worries, I just do it more. It’s easy to explain and relate to. My CFS is less easy to explain or relate to, but it’s so much a part of my everyday that I’ve become comfortable with it. It’s a disability and it’s not going anywhere so I’ve accepted it to the point where I don’t think twice about talking about it.

My depression is different. It isn’t there everyday in the same way, it lurks in the background then strikes out of nowhere. I can’t explain it as well, because I don’t really get it myself. I’ve always been lucky to have a lot in life, I know depression doesn’t care about that – it’s the great equaliser, but I am always are of how unreasonable it seems.

Recently I had a big hit of depression, for two days I could only cry and wish it would all end. If that was my anxiety I could take action to reduce it. If it was my CFS I would do stretches or pace myself around it. For depression it was a frightening loss of control. I had to wait it out because I’m already on the max dose of antidepressants and the doctor just called it “a blip”.

I think, being a control freak, that’s why I feel uncomfortable about my depression. I have to ride it out, and no amount of positivity can drag me out of that cave. It’s the condition I deny with “no really I’m fine” because I don’t want to admit how much it frightens me.

Talking about it online is a lot easier than in real life when I was stood in the middle of work balling my eyes out for reasons I couldn’t explain. It’s not embarrassing when I’m unseen. I’m not ashamed of my issues in person either – but it really is awkward sometimes!

I’m not sure what my point is with this one, I guess I want you to know it’s ok. It’s not just you. Even if I seem like I’ve got it all together most of the time I have my struggles too. As a community we have each other and we understand each other.