It’s the biggest study so far on a baffling condition: chronic fatigue syndrome. And the finding is that exercise and behaviour therapy are the best treatments.
For years, patient groups warned this could be dangerous, instead promoting a strategy known as adaptive pacing — which advises patients to adjust to their illness by simply doing less. The study proved that wrong.
The research, published in The Lancet, concluded that exercise as well as cognitive therapy to address fears of activity seemed to moderately reduce fatigue and improve activity levels. Researchers figure these strategies work by convincing patients they can recover, leading to an actual improvement. The treatment helped about 60% of the patients.
The study also suggests the crippling condition can sometimes be reversed.
Chronic fatigue syndrome affects up to two per cent of people worldwide. It is characterized by persistent tiredness, muscle pain, insomnia and memory problems. The cause is unknown, and there is no cure.