Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a hotly debated condition, to the extent that some medical professionals debate its very existence. CFS has previously been known as Neurasthenia and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).
The condition can be variable in severity and affects around 4 in every 1000 people, most commonly women. The development of CFS in athletes is not uncommon, especially in those who combine full-scale training, with job and family commitments and those who continue to compete with a viral illness.
What are the Symptoms of CFS?
There are a number of definitions of the condition, with all highlighting fatigue which interferes with daily living, lasting for a period of over 6 months. Diagnosis of CFS is difficult as the cause is unknown. It is therefore usually by the exclusion of other conditions, that the diagnosis of CFS is made. The following symptoms are common:
- Chronic mental and physical exhaustion
- Impairments in short-term memory and concentration
- Muscle pain
- Multi-joint pain
- Tender cervical or axillary nodes
- Sore throat
- Sleep which does not refresh
- A persistent feeling or discomfort following any exertion
Management of CFS
The natural course of CFS usually shows a gradual improvement over the course of months, or sometimes years. Treatment should be focused on relieving symptoms and usually psychological support.
Exercise is often used as a treatment method, albeit initially at an extremely low level, so that the individual can complete the activity and not suffer adverse effects over the following 48 hours. Research has found that a graded exercise program increases the sense of fatigue and perception of health in the individual with CFS.
Anti-depressant medication can also be used to reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, as well as to improve the quality of sleep.