Treatment For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Medications, Behavior Therapy, Exercise And Alternatives

CFS/ME


sleeping pills

Treating CFS

Contents

How Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Treated?
Treating Worst Symptoms First
Monitoring Medications
Managing Exercise
Improving Quality Of Life
Alternative Therapies


How Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Treated?

There is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Instead treatment focuses on minimizing the symptoms of the illness. Managing the condition can be complex because no drugs have been developed specifically for CFS and symptoms can vary a lot of over time. If you have CFS you should closely monitor your health and if your symptoms change, let you doctor know. You may need to change treatment strategies.

After the initial diagnosis, typically your doctor will:

1. Treat the most problematic symptoms first.
2. Monitor your use of prescribed medications and over the counter supplements.
3. Refer you to other experts to learn how to manage physical activities and exercise.
4. Recommend alternative therapies and counseling to improve your health and quality of life.

1. Treating Worst Symptoms First

Your doctor will focus initially on treating your worst symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome first. These are likely to be:

Exhaustion caused by sleep problems
Common complaints in CFS patients include frequent awakening, difficulties falling asleep, restless leg, night time muscle spasms and hypersomnia (extreme sleepiness). First you will be advised to adopt certain routines to help you prepare for a good nights sleep. This may include going to the bed the same time every night, avoiding naps during the day and controlling the temperature and light in the bedroom. If these fail to work, medications to help induce sleep will be recommended. Initially this may mean taking over-the-counter sleep remedies and even simple antihistamines. If no benefits are reported, prescription sleeping pills in low doses for limited periods of time may be prescribed.

Pain
Aspirin or ibuprofen can help manage pain caused by sore muscles and joints. Alternative therapies like acupuncture can also help.

Depression
Nearly 50 percent of CFS patients experience anxiety or depression at some point. Low doses of antidepressants like Prozac or Zoloft, taken at night, may help relieve symptoms and even improve sleep. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise doctors only to prescribe sleeping pills to patients who are clinically depressed. They state while many CFS patients may show signs of depression, not all have depression. Prescribing antidepressants in such cases may do more harm than good.

Dizziness and feeling faint
Some CFS patients report feeling dizzy or faint, particularly when they stand upright. This condition is called orthostatic instability. If your symptoms are severe enough you will need to be evaluated by a neurologist or cardiologist for diagnosis and treatment.

2. Monitoring Medications

Most CFS patients are sensitive to medications, this is good news because it means benefits can often be achieved by lower doses than normal. If you are prescribed drugs, your physician will start you on the lowest possible dose and only increase it if necessary. As medications can cause side effects or worsen existing symptoms, you will need to be monitored closely.

3. Managing Exercise

Most physicians now recommend people with CFS to be as active as possible but to avoid activities that cause intensive physical or emotional stress. Learning how to manage physical activity is an important part of any CFS treatment plan. An occupational therapist can help show you how to break down daily chores like cleaning or personal hygiene into shorter, less stressful periods. A physical therapist can create a personal exercise plan to help keep your muscles flexible. Most people with CFS experience a worsening of symptoms after physical activity, typically within 12 to 48 hours and the pain may last several days or weeks. Yet, it is important not to avoid exercise because it can cause a downward spiral of complications. At the same time, the push-crash cycle needs to be avoided - that is where you push when you feel well, then crash and rest, and push again when you start to feel better. A physical therapist will design a graded exercise therapy (GET) program for you, starting off with a little amount of exercise and gradually increasing it over time.

4. Improving Quality Of Life

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that helps patients with chronic illnesses to adopt strategies to improve their health and quality of life. CBT therapists help those with CFS, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. They help you problem-solve every day physical and emotional challenges so that you can return the activity of living. Some patients also find practical support by joining a CFS support group or by seeking professional counseling.

Alternative Therapies

The CDC recommends considering:

• Complementary therapies like yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, deep breathing and gentle massage to manage pain.
• Stretches and light exercise before bedtime.
• Doing puzzles, word games and card game to help those with memory problems.

  Related Articles on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

For more on CFS, see the following:

Causes of chronic fatigue syndrome: Viruses and other theories.
Diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome: Tests for CFS

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WOMENS HEALTH ADVICE: ABOUT CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME
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