People with chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS , usually have tremendous difficulties in doing the things that many of us take for granted. For example, we probably don’t think twice before getting dressed and going somewhere as long as we have had enough rest. However, this is not the case for someone who is chronically fatigued. CFS is a very frustrating condition for many reasons. First, rest does little or nothing to calm CFS symptoms. Second, the causes of chronic fatigue syndrome are not well known (although a weakened immune system, hormonal imbalances, viral infections and stress can contribute). Finally, CFS has no known cure.
While there may not be a cure, there are effective self-care methods that seem to work for many. We will discuss this at the end of this article. But first, let’s talk a little about five warning symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. “Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating disorder characterized by extreme fatigue or fatigue that does not go away with rest and cannot be explained by an underlying medical condition.”
1. Failing Failure:
As the name implies, fatigue is the general symptom of chronic fatigue syndrome. Think about how tired you feel when you get the flu. Anyone who has had an unpleasant case of the flu will attest that he only wants to do one thing when he is sick: rest. Now imagine feeling the fatigue similar to the flu every day. Then, imagine that the rest you are looking for so desperately gives you little or no energy. This describes chronic fatigue syndrome in a nutshell.
2. Cognitive Problems (“Brain Mist”):
In a 2015 academic article, researchers at Columbia University School of Medicine found differences in the immune system of individuals diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. Patients with CFS had higher levels of cytokines, immune system chemicals that are normally released after the onset of a viral infection. In other words, CFS patients showed signs of a highly active immune system – without apparent physical illness. In addition, the rebel inflammatory response found in patients with CFS seems to trigger a “brain fog.” Common symptoms of brain fog include difficulty concentrating, poor memory and slow reaction time.
3. Non-Repair Dream:
We all need sleep to recharge and be productive. Without sleep, we simply cannot function anywhere near our capabilities. People with CFS are very familiar with these feelings. For reasons unknown to doctors and other medical professionals, sleep does not seem to provide people with CFS with the rest they need to function normally.
“A common complaint among people with CFS is the feeling that they have not slept”.
Others say they feel as if they experience a “hangover every morning.” Even with sleeping pills and other sleeping aids, many CFS patients find it very difficult to sleep well at night.
4. Problems Related to Posture:
Some medical professionals, including chiropractors, believe that poor posture causes – or results due to – chronic fatigue syndrome. It is entirely possible that both are correct. While this “posture theory” has not yet become fashionable, most experts will admit that poor posture can lead to low energy levels. As already mentioned, some consider that a bad posture is a possible sign of CFS. Maintaining an upright and “alert” posture requires more energy than many people with CFS can or will spend.
5. Many Other Symptoms:
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a highly individualized disorder with highly individualized symptoms. Because the possible symptoms of chronic fatigue are numerous, it is difficult to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome. In fact, some estimate that more than 91 percent of people with CFS never receive a diagnosis. Many others receive an incorrect diagnosis of depression. (The reality that many doctors, for some unexplained reason, have not yet recognized CFS as a legitimate disorder.)
Other possible signals from CFS include:
- Frequent headaches
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches and pains
- Sore throat
How to Treat the CFS?
The treatment for CFS varies for each person. As we have no known cure, the treatment focuses on relieving symptoms. The treatment for CFS is divided into three categories: medications, complementary medicine and lifestyle changes. In some cases, depression can be the cause of prolonged fatigue. As such, a doctor can prescribe an antidepressant. Pain relievers for muscle and joint pain may be prescribed if the symptoms are severe enough. Finally, a doctor may recommend medications to induce sleep. Lifestyle changes can help with the symptoms of CFS. These include: limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption, exercising regularly, creating and maintaining a sleep routine, limiting stressors and refraining from physical efforts. Alternative forms of therapy can be useful – meditation and yoga, in particular. Acupuncture, aromatherapy, breathing exercises, massage and tai chi can also help increase energy and relieve stress related to CFS.
Finally, some researchers believe that inflammation is the main catalyst of CFS. Therefore, following an anti-inflammatory diet and taking NSAIDs (for example, Advil, Aleve) when necessary can greatly help eradicate many of the symptoms of CFS.