Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients who participated in a trial where they showed improvements after one year of graded exercise therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy continued experiencing improvements for 2.5 years after beginning treatment. This suggests that chronic fatigue treatments can bring about long-term benefits, according to a new study published in The Lancet Psychiatry.
CFS is when an individual experiences extreme fatigue that doesn’t improve with bed rest but can actually get worse with physical and mental activity. A person suffering from CFS may experience muscle pain, weakness, memory problems, and insomnia.
In the study, researchers defined CFS as having experienced fatigue and impaired functioning for at least six months and for which there was no distinguishable diagnosis.
The new study, conducted by a research team that included members from Queen Mary University of London, UK is a follow-up to the PACE trial. Approximately three-quarters of the PACE trial participants took part in the follow-up. The original PACE trial results were published in 2011 and included 641 patients with CFS who were randomly assigned to four treatment groups:
- Specialist medical care (SMC): SMC is when patients receive advice on how to manage their disease as well as any medication they’re taking.
- Graded exercise therapy (GET): This involves graded exercise therapy in addition to SMC. GET refers to when a patient increases their amount of exercise in a monitored program that matches their individual symptoms and fitness levels.
- Adaptive pacing therapy (APT): This involves adaptive pacing therapy in addition to SMC. APT helps patients adjust their lives to live better within the limits of their conditions.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This involved cognitive behavioral therapy in addition to SMC. CBT is a talking therapy that helps patients understand how thinking affects their symptoms and encourages them to explore increasing levels of activity.
The 2011 PACE trial results showed that the outcomes for GET and CBT were better than SMC and APT—even after a one-year follow-up.
The new study found that the improvements achieved after one year of CBT and GET were still present 2.5 years after treatment. Furthermore, patients who received GET and CBT in the 2011 PACE trial were less likely to seek more treatment after the trial than patients who originally had APT or SMC.
There were no significant differences among the four treatment groups in the number of patients who reported long-term deterioration of their general health, which was approximately one in 10 patients in each group.
According to Professor Peter White, the study’s co-author, “Finding no significant differences in the proportions getting worse over time is a reassurance for those who worry that some of these treatments might make things worse. But it is also a reminder that these treatments do not help everybody, and more research is needed into finding other treatments that help.”
Sources for Today’s Article:
Paddock, C., “Chronic fatigue treatments bring long-term benefits, study shows,” Medical News Today web site; November 2, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/301870.php.
Sharpe, M., et al., “Rehabilitative treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome: long-term follow-up from the PACE trial,” The Lancet Psychiatry, published online October 27, 2015, doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(15)00317-X.