Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Treatment

By Karen Lee Richards, ChronicPainConnection Lead Expert

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There’s not a one-size-fits-all treatment protocol for ME/CFS. Each patient has a unique combination of symptoms and may respond differently to various treatments. The most effective treatment programs usually involve a multi-disciplined approach, incorporating prescription medications, alternative therapies and lifestyle changes.

Prescription Medications

Any medications prescribed in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome / myalgic encephalopathy must be prescribed off-label, because no drugs have yet received FDA approval to treat ME/CFS. Therefore, doctors will generally prescribe medication to treat specific symptoms the patient is experiencing. Since people with ME/CFS often have a heightened sensitivity to drugs, prescribing medications can present quite a challenge. It’s usually best to start with low doses of any medication, gradually increasing the dosage as necessary. Types of medications sometimes used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms include:

  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antidepressants
  • Antifungals
  • Antihistamines
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Antivirals
  • Central nervous system depressants
  • Corticosteroids
  • Expectorants
  • Immunoglobulins

Alternative Therapies

A variety of alternative therapies have been effective in helping some ME/CFS patients manage their symptoms. Some of these alternative therapies include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Aquatic therapy (i.e., water exercise, watsu)
  • Chiropractic
  • Massage therapy
  • Myofascial release therapy
  • Nutritional supplementation
  • Reiki
  • Tai chi
  • Therapeutic touch
  • Yoga

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle adaptations are key to the effective management of chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms. Making positive lifestyle changes lays a good foundation upon which other treatment plans can be built. Recommended lifestyle changes include:

  • Getting more rest. (If possible, however, avoid complete bed rest, which will lead to deconditioned muscles and increased fatigue.)
  • Following a regular, manageable daily routine.
  • Reducing physical and emotional stress.
  • Improving nutrition. (Avoid alcohol, caffeine, sugar and food additives. Many ME/CFS patients have found eating more organic foods to be very effective.) 
  • Getting mild to moderate exercise regularly, but only with doctor’s approval. (for example, gentle stretching, simple water exercise)

Sources:

About CFIDS. The CFIDS Association of America, Inc., 2004

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. MayoClinic.com, 2005

Treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. ImmuneSupport.com, 2007
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