Have you found that you’re abnormally tired and have not been able to shake it for months? In turn, are you experiencing poor cognitive functioning, joint pain, and difficulty sleeping? You may be suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), a combination of symptoms that tend to overlap with fibromyalgia.
What is chronic fatigue syndrome?
It has been estimated that 150,000 Australians suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, yet less than 20 percent of sufferers have been diagnosed. Overall, this disorder causes extreme fatigue, limiting your ability to take part in day-to-day activities. As expected, the main symptom is severe fatigue that lasts for more than six months, as well as at least four other symptoms, including:
- Feeling ill after taking part in physical activity
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain, experienced in multiple joints
- Issues sleeping
- A sore throat
- Memory issues and ‘brain fog’
Study — there is a biological factor in CFS
CFS can be challenging to diagnose and although the exact cause is unknown, it’s believed that those with CFS exhibit differences in immune function. Since there is not a definitive test to diagnose CFS, this has been of great interest. Within a recent study, published in Science Advances, blood samples were taken from 298 CFS patients and 348 healthy individuals.
Patients who had CFS for three years or less, appeared to have elevated levels of specific cytokines. These molecules are secreted by immune cells and were found in elevated concentrations, in comparison to the healthy control group. Individuals who suffered from CFS for longer than three years, however, had lower levels of cytokines in their blood.
In comparison to past research, this was the most profound display of changes in terms of immune function. Based on elevated levels of cytokines, it’s possible that patients could experience earlier diagnosis. In 2015, Stanford University also found that there were differences in the white matter of the brains of patients with CFS.
Since CFS affects nearly every system in the human body, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and neurological features are all being examined. The average duration of this illness is estimated at around seven years. With that being said, some will get better after one to two years — while others recover more slowly.
Physiotherapy to treat CFS
Treating CFS is challenging because it affects each individual in a unique manner, so treatment needs to be tailored to target specific symptoms. Although some medications are available to treat symptoms of depression, both gentle exercise and psychological counselling have been shown to be the most effective.
When it comes to treating CFS patients with physiotherapy, a graded exercise program tends to be effective in approximately 50 percent of patients. Since the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence released guidelines for graded exercise therapy in 2007, researchers and physiotherapists have been concerned by the response of some patients.
Physiotherapists are concerned that the negative feedback associated with this form of therapy is due to a lack of awareness. Graded exercise programs cannot be applied in an inflexible manner, as treatment should not be a one size fits all approach. If an exercise program is too strenuous, individuals can experience worsening symptoms in terms of fatigue and pain.
It is recommended that if you have CFS, start off slow and go slow — do not increase the amount of exercise too quickly. Set realistic goals and pace yourself, in order to gradually build up exercises through effective goal setting. Adjust the exercise program to meet your needs over a prolonged period of time.
During customised exercise programs, changes to one’s lifestyle are also recommended — focusing on diet, sleep, and stress management. In order to effectively cope, it’s also helpful to take part in cognitive behavioural therapy in order to target emotional and mental health. If you are often tired but do not believe you’re suffering from CFS, please refer to these three potential factors.
Need an expert Perth Physio for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Call us and book in today!