The incidence of chronic fatigue syndrome among Chinese office workers is rising at an alarming rate.
Zhang Qian reports on how Traditional Chinese Medicine fights the condition.
It's said that the morning scene at a Metro station is the best image of Shanghai as a busy modern city. The long-term stress of a busy work life can break the balance in a human body easily and result in various fatigue illnesses.
Eye strain and neck ache are common illnesses among office workers as their jobs require long-term concentration on the computer screens while sitting still at the desks.
"Keeping one posture for long periods, especially one that is against the natural position of the body will block the circulation of energy within the body," says Dr Zhang Zhongyi, deputy director of the Acupuncture Department of the Yueyang Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital. "Wherever the energy is blocked, it will ache."
Dr Zhang explains that when people are typing on a computer, their necks are bent forward which is against the natural status of the human body. When energy is blocked at the neck, it will not only cause ache here but also preventing blood and energy flowing to the brain and eyes, and cause eye strain and dizziness.
He strongly recommends that office workers take a break and do some stretching exercises every hour. Cupping treatment at home can relieve light aching problems in the neck, shoulders, back or waist. But if the condition is already serious, such as being unable to even move part of the body, you should go to a doctor or masseuse for a professional massage or acupuncture therapy.
But Dr Zhang warns that don't let any unprofessional masseuse adjust your neck or back by force, lest the result be tragedy and paralysis.
And as for eye problems, Dr Zhang suggest having some foods or herbs such as gou qi (Barbary Wolfberry Fruit) that benefit the liver. TCM believes there is a strong connection between liver and eyes. Some DIY acupressure can also relieve the symptom.
Prevention is always better than treatment, as some fatigue illnesses are not easy to cure, such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), a serious illness resulting in long-term fatigue.
"The incidence rate of CFS is increasing rapidly in cities, especially among white collars with the highest rate of 50 percent," says Dr Zhang Zhenxian, director of the Special Medical Care Department of Yueyang Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital. "Serious symptoms like decreasing memory and depression may even rob the patients of their capabilities at work."
CFS usually first appears as a simple fatigue problem such as feeling dizzy and aches in the joints; yet if the patient continues work without enough rest, worse symptoms will follow up, such as decreasing memory, narcolepsy, feeling dispirited, and a long-term low fever.
If the patient still fails to get treatment and continues to work hard, death can happen.
If you find yourself suffering no fewer than four of the symptoms listed below for more than six months, you might have CFS, and you had better see a doctor.
Rapid decrease of memory or concentration
Lymph node enlargement
Joints ache without any red swelling on the surface
Tiredness that can't be relieved by sleep
Smoke therapy for serious eye strain problem
Sang ye (mulberry leaf)
Method: 1. Put the mulberry leaf into a sand pot, bring quickly to a boil and then reduce heat.
2. Put your eyes above the pot, letting the hot air from the pot smoke your eyes for 15 minutes.
The idea of "an inch" in TCM acupuncture is different from the internationally recognized one. Two inches refers to the width of three fingers (index finger, middle finger and ring finger); three inches refers to the width of four fingers (index finger, middle finger, ring finger and little finger).
Zu san li
Location: Three inches beneath the sunken place at the outside of your knee when you naturally bend your leg.
Function: Delay aging process, and improve the function of stomach and intestine.
Method: Press and rub.
Location: Five inches above the outer ankle point (the salient bone at the outer ankle).
Function: Improve eye sight.
Method: Press and rub.
(Dr Zhang Zhongyi suggests that we bend over to rub the front shank in vertical direction with thumb and the other four fingers on different sides of the shank bone, so that we can give acupressure to both zu san li and guang ming. Besides, it can also be seen as a stretching exercise.)
Location: The central point of the second metacarpus at the thumb side.
Function: Relieve eye strain, toothache and tinnitus.
Method: Press in the direction of little finger, and rub.
Location: Two inches above the wrinkle at the wrist, between the two bones in the arm.
Function: Relieve headache, tinnitus, bloodshot eyes, ache in the fingers and hand tremor.
Method: Press and rub.
Gou qi (Barbary Wolfberry Fruit) and chrysanthemum tea
Portion: 10 grams of gou qi and five pieces of chrysanthemum
Function: Improve eye sight, reduce blood sugar and cholesterol.
Jue ming zi (semen cassiae) tea
Portion: 10-16 grams
Function: Improve eye sight, reduce internal heat and release the bowels.
Cupping is an ancient Chinese method of causing local congestion. A partial vacuum is created in cups placed on the skin either by means of heat or suction.
This draws up the underlying tissues and help them release toxin. When the cup is left in place on the skin for a few minutes, blood stasis is formed and localized healing takes place. It is also a means to open the "meridians" of the body.
Dr Zhang Zhongyi's TCM Clinic: Tuesday and Friday 8-11am at 110 Ganhe Rd.
Special Care Department
Dr Zhang Zhenxian's TCM Clinic: Thursday 8-11am at 110 Ganhe Rd
Saturday 8-11am at 44 Qinghai Rd
CFS Special Clinic: Tuesday 8-11am at 110 Ganhe Rd
(Shanghai Daily September 11, 2007)