I know a few people who suffer from this condition – and was talking about it the other day, and they were unaware that physical therapy could help. So, with that in mind I decided it was time to write about how we can help if you are someone that is unlucky enough to suffer from this condition.
What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a condition categorized by generalized fatigue that persists for 6 months or longer. It is the kind of “tired” that is much more more intense than what would be expected based if you are doing a normal amount of activity.
Signs and Symptoms
Research has identified several symptoms of CFS, including:
– Fatigue. Obviously this is the primary symptom of CFS is fatigue that lasts 6 months or more.
– Disturbed sleep. On top of generalized fatigue, those who suffer from CFS quite often have difficulty sleeping too.
– Frequent headaches. Many people with CFS complain about frequent or recurring headaches, which can lead to avoiding physical activity.
– Generalized pain. There is overlap between diagnoses of CFS and fibromyalgia. Some studies have also suggested that 50% to 80% of people diagnosed with CFS also qualify to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. In both conditions, widespread pain is present.
– Muscle weakness. Decreased physical activity can result in general muscle weakness.
– Cloudy thoughts and confusion. CFS can make it difficult for sufferers to stay on task.
– Flu-like symptoms. People with CFS often report flu-like symptoms which can include a sore throat, and muscle aches.
How Is It Diagnosed?
What makes CFS different is that it is a diagnosis of exclusion. This means that when no other health problem is responsible for the fatigue, a diagnosis of CFS is given. That being said unfortunately there are no diagnostic tests to confirm the presence of CFS.
Your physical therapist may be the first to recognize the onset of CFS because of its effects on your physical function.
Here are some questions that your PT will ask you:
– When do you feel fatigued and how long have you been feeling fatigued?
– Have you been noticing any sleep disturbances?
– Has your ability to perform physical tasks changed?
– Do you have widespread pain or discomfort?
– Are there any changes in your ability to think clearly?
There is also the possibility that a cardiopulmonary exercise test will take place. This includes 2 tests arranged 24 hours apart, which are used to characterize the severity of your functional impairment. In addition, your PT will likely ask you to fill out a questionnaire in order to better understand your physical state and to check for other conditions.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
As I always say your PT will work with you one-on-one to develop a treatment plan to help ease your discomfort and improve your ability to perform daily activities. Due to the fact that fatigue, pain, and weakness are all associated with CFS, your treatment plan will likely focus on improving short-term endurance and strength.
Physical therapy treatments may include:
– Movement and strengthening exercises. Moving and exercising improves your short-term endurance and strength and reduce your pain. Your physical therapist will help you identify movements that will help reduce specific symptoms.
– Education. Your PT will teach you strategies to help conserve energy while performing your daily activities, which will make things easier and relieve some overall fatigue.
– Manual Therapy. Your PT will also likely use hands-on therapy to manipulate and mobilize the skin, bones, and soft tissues to help reduce your pain and improve range of movement.
Now that you are properly educated about CFS you can take some time to think about whether you are experiencing any of the symptoms, and if so, come in and speak with a PT about next steps. Remember – this is something that is considered once many other conditions are eliminated, but if you feel like there is something going on that has not been diagnosed yet it certainly is worth looking into.
Do not hesitate to give us a call, or fill out our online contact form, if you have any questions or want to set up an appointment with one of our PTs.