ME Research UK



There are many treatments and therapies which ME/CFS sufferers have tried. Some ME/CFS sufferers would consider their return to good health to be attributable to such therapies as behavioural therapy, herbal remedies, cranio saceal therapy, aromatherapy, kai massage, shiatsu massage, kinesiology, bio-energy, DHEA treatment, hydrotherapy, reiki, energy treatment, Procain therapy, H2O2 therapy, magnet therapy, myofascial release therapy, neural organisation technique, osteopathy, physiotherapy, psychology, Shen energy treatment, etc, etc. Other people would swear by the benefits of such as aloe vera juice, avoidance of chemicals, evening primrose oil, anti-depressants, vitamin / mineral supplements, intra, massage, ME clinic / hospital program, primrose oil, removal of amalgams, B12 injections, sea swimming, nutritional supplements, etc., etc.

The difficulty about advocating any particular direction is that for every person who would swear by one approach, there is another who has tried it without success. The message therefore is that each individual must find their own route to recovery. And hopefully not spend too much money along the way. We also have to be mindful of those who have found no relief through various approaches. Most people however, do regain a better quality of life and if one adopts a sensible management policy to complement their treatment, improvement rate can be accelerated.

For the purpose of this research study, we decided to focus on the principal avenues for treatment. These comprise of treatment from the GP, hospital consultant (physician, specialist, etc.), homeopath, acupuncturist, reflexologist, and healer. When a person becomes ill with any complaint, the first approach is usually made to the local doctor. Therefore in most cases where a person visits a complementary practitioner, it is at a later stage. In fact complementary practitioners are often only visited when the treatment offered by the doctor is considered ineffective and referrals to consultants also offer no remedy.

The following graph and figures are not intended to pit one approach against another. The percentages reflect the testimony of those who have attended the practitioners, insofar as to whether they were of benefit or not. For instance, the 36% of people who would say that they were helped by visiting a healer would not necessarily constitute a higher number of people than the 21% who have been helped through hospital consultations. In fact the greater number of people which have gained relief from their ME/CFS symptoms have done so with treatment from their GP. This is only possible, however, because of the vast majority of people who primarily visit their GP. It does not make pleasant reading however, to note that over 60% of ME/CFS sufferers as opposed to under 40%, would say that their GP offered no effective treatment.

General Practitioner 39.56 % 60.44 %
Hospital consultant 21.86 % 78.14 %
Homeopath 57.87 % 42.13 %
Acupuncturist 55.06 % 44.94 %
Reflexologist 47.79 % 52.21 %
Healer 36.21 % 63.79 %

As the figures above demonstrate, there is no guarantee of success, whichever road the ME/CFS sufferer travels in order to find effective relief from their symptoms. Only the homeopath and acupuncturist have helped more people than they have disappointed. Even so, nearly half of people who visit come away without the help they require.

This is all very baffling for the individual when attempting to decide upon the best approach for treatment. If the ME/CFS sufferer is on the medical card scheme, he/she will need to attend a GP who is on the GMS scheme.

Furthermore, if applications are made for the Disability Allowance, or other Governmental benefits, it is usually the GP who needs to be contacted to verify the level of incapacity of the applicant. Therefore, to investigate other therapies, this will involve further expense which may lead to difficulties.

If the ME/CFS sufferer is interested in exploring the possibilities of complementary therapies, it may be worth considering integrative medicine. There are a number of doctors, while conventionally trained, have embraced areas of complementary medicine in order to add new dimensions to their practice. The belief is, that with such conditions as ME/CFS, something different is needed other than purely symptom focused therapy.

On a more positive note 64.4% as against 35.6% of respondents would testify that their treatment was the main contributory factor on their improvement. Yet a breakdown of that 64.4% shows that mainstream medicine comes out fairly badly. If we consider that of that 64% who stated that their improvement was as a direct result of treatment / therapy, over 9% compared with just under 8% said they benefited from visiting a healer rather than the hospital. That is a sad indictment of the procedures which are in place.

Breakdown as follows

Although this study was finalised in 1998, anecdotal evidence since that time would suggest that the situation which prevailed then has not changed much in the interim.

Until the Irish medical hierarchy develop a multi-disciplinary strategy to tackle the conundrum that is ME/CFS, sufferers will continue to be denied the necessary health care which should be afforded to all citizens.