Chronic Fatigue and Muscle Strains – they’re not related….are they?

It is well researched that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) can be worsened by physical activity. A study has suggested that flare ups of the condition can be caused by a muscle strain or nerve irritation. The study out of Johns Hopkins University in the USA proposed that Physiotherapy could be a perfect treatment option for those suffering with CFS.

CFS, also known as ME, is defined as persistent fatigue that cannot be alleviated by sleep/rest; and can be made worse by physical and mental activity. Symptoms may also include muscle pain, poor memory, joint pain, headaches and problems sleeping. Diagnosis and treatment of the condition is often tricky, as there are no definitive scans or tests that can diagnose it – and without a diagnosis, it is difficult to formulate a plan to tackle it.

However, the study has suggested physiotherapy could be a good treatment option, after finding certain body movements reproduced symptoms of CFS. The study asked a group of 60 people with CFS, and 20 people without CFS to perform a common exercise given out by physiotherapists. The CFS group reported more pain both during and after the exercise than the non-CFS group.

The researchers said that if a very mild muscle strain was to occur, this could lead to similar results as the study. This is important information for us as Physio’s. If we know that exercise can reproduce symptoms, it means we can design specific rehabilitation programmes to counter these symptoms. For example, if we can gradually strengthen a group of muscles, then the risk of muscle strain is lessened – meaning symptoms of CFS are less likely to occur.

Interesting stuff! We know rehabilitation is the key element in long term management of injury and pain, but we didn’t know it could help with CFS too! This is great news for some of our patients who suffer from this difficult condition.

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