One of the most common symptoms that patients complain of in our office is a constant feeling of fatigue. Sometimes this is directly related to a certain illness, condition, or medication – and other times it is just an unexplained tiredness that nothing seems to alleviate. Some people who feel a constant fatigue have trouble sleeping, and the tiredness is related to lack of adequate sleep. For others, however, a full night’s rest doesn’t give them the additional energy they crave.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and to honor that, this post is about how Traditional Chinese Medicine understands our mental and emotional selves. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine can be very useful therapies to treat common mental health conditions, especially in conjunction with psychotherapy and pharmaceutical medication (when appropriate.) Common mental health conditions we see in our clinic include anxiety, depression, post-partum depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders.
It is certainly a crazy busy time of year for many – and the frantic pace definitely has some feeling more fatigued than usual. Not to mention seasonal allergies, busy work schedules, lack of sleep, and chronic illness that keep many feeling a lack of energy on most days. From an acupuncture perspective, fatigue can be caused by numerous different types of imbalances in the body – you can learn more about that here. And while there can be medically significant types of fatigue (always tell your practitioner if you are feeling more fatigue than normal and don’t know why), often time fatigue can be managed with lifestyle changes. Here are a few suggestions to try to boost your energy and get you back on your feet.
The IT Band (Iliotibial Band) is a dense line of connective tissue that runs down the lateral side of your legs from the hip to the knee. Many of the large muscles on the front and back of the leg attach into the IT Band. When there is inflammation of the IT Band, or if it is working too hard to compensate for other muscles’ weakness, something called IT Band Syndrome occurs. This is an incredibly common injury in runners, rowers, hikers, and certain swimmers. It can be caused by over-doing any activity that activates the IT Band or causes the leg to turn slightly inward, thereby causing a pull on the outer part of the leg (such as running on a banked track or sitting cross-legged.) It can also be caused by an imbalance in the stabilizing muscles of the hip, buttock, and low back. If one of these large muscles isn’t firing properly, smaller muscles connecting to the IT Band pick up the slack and work over-time. (See an excellent discussion of this phenomenon here.) Lastly, IT Band Syndrome can sometimes be caused by anatomical or body dynamics issues, such as high arches, uneven legs, or over supination or pronation of the foot while walking or running (landing too much on the inside or outside arch of the foot.)
A feeling of something stuck in your throat
One interesting, somewhat enigmatic part of the treatment experience for patients is when the practitioner takes the pulse and looks at the tongue. New patients will often ask, “What are you looking for in the pulse and tongue?” Experienced patients will often want to know, “How is my pulse and tongue today?”
The piriformis muscle is a flat, band-like muscle that runs across the buttock and laterally rotates the hip. It runs from the anterior (front) of the sacrum to the head of the femur (the bony notch on the outside of your hip, the top of your upper leg.) The piriformis is a very important muscle clinically because the sciatic nerve runs right alongside the piriformis. In about 15-17% of the population, the sciatic nerve actually runs through the piriformis muscle. This means that stress or injury to the piriformis muscle can irritate the sciatic nerve, and cause sciatica. When the piriformis muscle is the cause of sciatic pain, the condition is called piriformis syndrome.