Treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) – Meditation
“In the practice of mindfulness a CFS/FM patient is neither in the past nor the future – only in the here and now….Focus on the now, the present, is not associated with frightening ‘what if’ future thinking, the negative experiences of the past….It’s a time to simply be – a moment of acceptance, an awareness of life” Dr. Alison Bested, ME/CFS Doctor and Author.
Meditation/Relaxation Exercises May Work in ME/CFS/FM Because
- Meditation results in slowed, deepened breathing. Some studies suggest some ME/CFS patients often have shallow, rapid breathing and/or are ‘breath holders’. Both result in lowered breath CO2 levels and impaired oxygen delivery to the tissues. The evidence suggests that over time meditation may able to retrain the nervous system so that you automatically breathe at more optimal rates.
- There is evidence that the ‘stress response’ is activated in ME/CFS and the ‘relaxation response’ is inhibited. This can lead to shortened breath, racing heart, constricted muscles, fatigue, etc. Meditation enhances the ‘relaxation response’ and turns down the stress (‘fight or flight’) response. Enhancing the relaxation response can lead to more energy, better digestion, slowed heart rate, better sleep and reduced pain.
- Meditation practices can ease the muscular tension commonly found in ME/CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) and fibromyalgia (FM) which can make it difficult to get to sleep and achieve restful sleep.
- Meditation and relaxation therapies can reduce prescription drug use. Dr. Friedberg, a clinical psychologist with chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), has found that some of his patients are able to reduce or even eliminate prescription use for sleep and pain problems.
- Meditation gives ME/CFS patients a ‘time-out’ from the many stresses and worries of their everyday lives.
- Some researchers believe that inadequate ‘information filtering’ causes too much information to flood the higher levels of the brain in ME/CFS. Many patients have difficulty in information-rich environments and seek out quiet places to rejuvenate themselves. By training ones mind to focus on a single point or object meditation may be able to help train the brain to improve its information-filtering properties.
- On a similar note studies suggest that chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) patients have a reduced ability to ‘turn off’ or disregard innocuous stimuli. Healthy brains are able to quickly assess whether they should monitor or ignore things such as background sounds, lights or odors. This suggested it’s more difficult for people with ME/CFS to remain in a state of concentrated focus. (No surprise there!). Since meditation ‘works the focus muscle’ it may be able to assist in this area.
The Body Scan
Alison Bested MD and Allan Logan ND. 2006. Hope and Help For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. Cumberland Press.