Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) can be debilitating, causing its sufferers to miss out on important life events and opportunities because of the constant need for sleep. Symptoms include achy muscles, joint pain, headache and long-lasting exhaustion after exercise. So it's no wonder that a lot of CFS patients fear that working out could wreak havoc on their energy levels. However, a new study from the UK suggests that exercise is critical to the management of CFS symptoms, and that "fear of exercise" among patients is one of the greatest obstacles in the treatment of this disorder.
CFS, referred to technically as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), can be treated with graded exercise therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, where patients participate in slowly increasing degrees of exercise over time. Exercise is key for the management of CFS symptoms, but doing too much too fast can do more harm than good, with subsequent severe fatigue reinforcing patients' fear of exercise. Therefore, it is crucial to get advice from a physician when exercising with CFS, which may start with something as simple as getting out of bed in some extreme cases.
The researchers stressed that the study results should not be taken to mean that CFS is a "psychological illness". It means only that psychological states can have some effect on the treatment of what is clearly a physical ailment. This "psychosomatic" accusation has plagued CFS sufferers for decades, painting them as lazy shirkers.
Professor Trudie Chalder of King's College London shot down this stereotype in a statement: "Sufferers of ME tend to be conscientious and hard-working and there is quite a lot of evidence that they are not lazy."
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