What's the treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome?
There is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome, but many treatments are available to help relieve the symptoms. Treatments usually are individualized to each person's particular symptoms and needs. The first treatment most doctors recommend is a combination of rest, exercise, and a balanced diet. Prioritizing activities, avoiding overexertion, and resting when needed are key to maintaining existing energy reserves. A program of moderate exercise helps to keep
patients from losing physical conditioning, but too much exercise can worsen fatigue and other chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms. Counseling and stress reduction techniques also may help some people with chronic fatigue syndrome.
Many medications, nutritional supplements, and herbal preparations have been used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome. While many of these are unproven, others seem to provide some people with relief. People with chronic fatigue syndrome should discuss their treatment plan with their doctors, and carefully weigh the benefits and risks of each therapy before making a decision. Pain relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin may help relieve headaches, muscle and joint pain, and other physical symptoms. Pain relievers that may become addictive with frequent use (narcotics) are generally used only in the most severe cases on a short-term basis. Low doses of tricyclic agents are sometimes prescribed for chronic fatigue syndrome patients to improve sleep and to relieve mild, generalized pain. Examples include doxepin (Adapin, Sinequan), amitriptyline (Elavil, Etrafon, Limbitrol, Triavil), desipramine (Norpramin), and nortriptyline (Pamelor).
Home treatment is a very important part of treating chronic fatigue syndrome. Adjusting your daily schedule, improving your sleep habits, and getting regular, gentle exercise can often help relieve and control symptoms. Beginning a graded exercise program, in which the duration and intensity of exercise start easy and grow more challenging only according to your comfort and ability, should be a significant part of this stage of treatment. Studies have shown that a gentle, graded exercise program designed by a health professional can help relieve fatigue and improve physical functioning. It is important to remember that most people with chronic fatigue syndrome can tolerate only light exercise. Getting too much exercise or increasing your level of exercise too quickly can make symptoms worse.
While lifestyle changes cannot cure the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, they can make life with chronic fatigue syndrome more manageable and enjoyable. Increased rest, the use of stress reduction and management techniques, dietary restrictions, nutritional supplementation and minimal exercise may be recommended by your health care professional. Supportive therapy, such as counseling, can also help you to identify and develop effective coping strategies.
A variety of nutritional supplements are used for treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. Among these are vitamin C, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin E, and various dietary minerals. These supplements may help improve immune and mental functions. Several herbs have been shown to improve immune function and have other beneficial effects. Some that are used for chronic fatigue syndrome are astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), echinacea (Echinacea spp.), garlic (Allium sativum), ginseng (Panax ginseng), gingko (Gingko biloba), evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis), shiitake mushroom extract (Lentinus edodes), borage seed oil , and quercetin.
Many people have enhanced their healing process for chronic fatigue syndrome with the use of a treatment program inclusive of one or more alternative therapies. Stress reduction techniques such as biofeedback, meditation, acupuncture, and yoga may help people with sleep disturbances relax and get more rest. They also help some people reduce depression and anxiety caused by chronic fatigue syndrome.