The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises that an individual programme of treatment should be offered to you aiming at:
You may be offered the treatments explained below, but how people respond is very individual and not the same for everyone. Often you may need to try several approaches to see what works for you.
Complementary Therapies for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
There is not enough evidence that complementary therapies are effective treatments for CFS. Different therapies may help different people, but there doesn't seem to be a standard ‘cure-all treatment’.
Some of the complementary therapies may give you short term relief or help you to manage your symptoms better, but not cure the condition.
As there is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), treatment focuses on the symptoms. The effectiveness of treatments depends on how CFS affects you. Early diagnosis, balancing rest with activity, medication to control certain symptoms and self-help measures can all help, see self-help for chronic fatigue syndrome.
Simply having a diagnosis of CFS and receiving advice about how to deal with it can help. It is important to adjust their lifestyle to improve their symptoms.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a type of therapy that aims to change the way that you think, feel and behave. CBT helps you realise that your problems are often created by you. It is not the situation itself that is making you unhappy but how you think about it and react to it.
This therapy allows you to identify the thoughts and feelings that are causing certain behaviours, and then find ways to change your thought patterns and your behaviour so that you can cope better with the emotional impact of your symptoms.
Graded Exercise Therapy (GET)
Graded exercise therapy (GET) is a structured exercise programme that aims to gradually increase how long you can carry out a physical activity. This will usually involve aerobic exercise (exercise that raises your heart rate) such as swimming or walking. You will have your own exercise programme adapted to your own physical capabilities.
After finding your ‘baseline’ in the exercise (what you can comfortably do already) you will then gradually increase:
As part of your exercise programme, you will be asked to set goals, such as being able to walk to the shops or carrying out some gardening. Whilst it may take months for you to achieve these goals you must also learn not to overdo the exercises that have been set for you. This can be done by a physiotherapist.
Activity management is another aspect of your treatment programme that involves setting individual goals and gradually increasing your activity levels. You may be asked to keep a diary of your current activity and rest periods to establish your baseline. Activities can then be gradually increased in a way that you find manageable, also see self-help for chronic fatigue syndrome.
Your treatment may also involve taking medication, although this will depend on your symptoms. Over-the-counter painkillers can help to ease muscle and joint pain and headaches. Stronger painkillers can also be prescribed by your GP, although they should only be used on a short-term basis.
If you have chronic (long-term) pain, you may be referred to a pain management clinic, see our tips for coping with chronic pain.
Depression may occur, as it does with many other chronic problems. Antidepressants can be useful for people with CFS who are in pain or having trouble sleeping. To discuss this see your GP.