Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complex, long term disorder characterised by extreme fatigue or tiredness and pain, that can affect multiple bodily systems and functions. As a result, symptoms can vary widely from person to person. CFS is an illness that doesn’t go away with rest and can’t be explained by an underlying medical condition. CFS is also referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID). Although the causes of CFS aren’t fully understood, there are several studies that conclude specific factors that may increase your risk of CFS. These include viral infection, psychological stress, allergies and environmental factors, and genetic predisposition. Women are two to four times more likely to be diagnosed with CFS than men and is most common among adults in their 40s and 50s. Currently, there is no cure, but treatment can relieve symptoms.
There are three core symptoms that are commonly found in those who suffer from CFS. These three symptoms include, a reduced ability to perform activities that were previously possible, post-exertional malaise and sleep disorders. A person with ME/CFS will experience fatigue that is severe, will not get better with rest, is not due to activity and was not previously present. This results in the reduced ability to perform activities of daily living and subsequently, have a dramatic impact on an individual’s health and wellbeing. Along with this, post-exertional malaise, is an extreme crash they feel after physical or mental exertion. This results in the inability to leave the house, get out of bed, or do house chores for 24-48hrs after the activity performed. In addition to this, sleep disorders also occur in those with CFS. This results in the inability to sleep or feel rested after sleep. One may experience, vivid dreams, restless legs, nightmare muscle spasms or sleep apnoea. Other key symptoms include, problems with thinking and memory and dizziness when standing up. Along with this, muscle aches and pain, headaches, tenderness in lymph nodes, shortness of breath and irregular heartbeat are also seen as possible symptoms.
Although there is no current cure, the treatment outcomes at the present time look to reduce and manage the symptoms of CFS. Physical therapy looks to avoid the ‘boom and bust’ cycle, mentioned above, that is experienced in post-exertional malaise, increase muscular endurance, reduce overall feelings of fatigue, increase cardiorespiratory fitness to reduce shortness of breath and also increase quality of life and mental/mood state. Along with this, a reduction in pain is also achieved through exercise, based on the strong connection between psychology and the perception of pain. Physical therapy looks to equip the individual who is experiencing CFS with the tools needed to self-manage their condition and fatigue levels. This is done via educating the individual around both physical and mental exertion and to manage/pace their load each day. This in turn, will help balance their activity throughout the day, rather than experience a wave like cycle and spend days in bed. In addition to this, an exercise program is also prescribed in order to increase muscular endurance and subsequently reduce fatigue, shortness of breath and increase cardiorespiratory fitness. As a by-product of the two, you will also see an increase in quality of life and mood state, ultimately improving their overall health and wellbeing.
Here are Vision Health we pride ourselves in changing the course of an individual’s life through exercise. If you are, or know someone who has been diagnosed with CFS, please don’t hesitate to call and book an initial consult. We would love to see you in the clinic and make a change for the better.