Exhausted and Achy All the Time?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a recently recognized distinct collection of signs and symptoms that affect multiple systems in the body. It varies in severity from mildly limiting to completely debilitating. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officially named this condition in 1988, purposely keeping the name general to include all patients with the wide variety of symptoms that characterize this condition.
The central defining symptom of CFS is severe fatigue/exhaustion that is not relieved by rest. It may be accompanied by swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, slight fever, muscle and joint pain, headaches, excessive pain after mild exertion, short-term memory loss, inability to concentrate, depression and insomnia, in addition to non-restorative sleep.
Estimates suggest that CFS probably affects about 800,000 Americans. Statistics on CFS incidence are difficult to gather for 4 primary reasons: 1) It is under-reported, as many sufferers do not seek treatment; 2) It mimics other disorders which may occur simultaneously, making a definitive diagnosis challenging; 3) CFS is often misdiagnosed, especially by physicians who do not recognize it as a legitimate diagnosis; and 4) Disparity exists in patient demographics from different geographic areas within the U.S. Women aged 25-50 comprise the largest group of CFS patients.
While most cases appear to be non-contagious, incidents of entire communities showing CFS symptoms may indicate exceptions to this assumption. Rather than focus on any one causative factor, researchers have concluded that CFS usually results from a combination of triggers that can vary from one patient to another. A dysfunctional connection between the central nervous system and the endocrine system seems to be at the center of most CFS cases, with CFS patients typically having low cortisol levels, indicating adrenal exhaustion.
In addition to the classic signs and symptoms listed above, other symptoms are prolific and may include: digestive disturbances, chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, morning muscle stiffness, and others. There is much crossover between CFS, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as psychological problems relating to living with chronic pain.
Primary CFS treatment consists of making lifestyle choices that support optimum wellness and immune function: stress management, moderate dietary choices, gentle exercise and adequate sleep. Medical intervention is sometimes helpful, but it is challenging to find the right combination of drugs, as symptoms vary patient to patient and are changeable in individual patients. Many CFS patients are hypersensitive to medications, and often find that ¼ normal dosage is adequate. For many patients, an effective combination is low-dose tricyclic anti-depressants and immune-suppressants, especially glucocortocoids used to treat inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.
Massage therapy is strongly indicated as helpful for CFS patients. Massage stimulates parasympathetic response; cleanses blood and tissues; increases endorphin and decreases cortisol production; relieves depression and stimulates circulation when exercise may exacerbate pain. Studies show that CFS patients report lower levels of anxiety and better quality of sleep after receiving massage. Therapists and CFS patients report pain relief, muscle relaxation, and improved sleep. The emotional support of the therapist, combined with skilled touch, has the potential to make CFS less isolating for patients suffering from this debilitating syndrome.
Want more info on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/index.html