Chronic fatigue symptoms triggered by nerve, muscle strain

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Housewife woman in a couch with headache and a hand on forehead

IT is well established that symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome can be worsened with physical activity. Now, a new study might shed some light on why this is, after finding chronic fatigue flare-ups can be triggered by mild to moderate muscle and nerve strain.
Researchers found the supine straight leg raise – which strains the muscles and nerves – triggered symptoms in patients with CFS.
Lead author Dr. Peter Rowe, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, and colleagues believe their findings point to certain forms of physical therapy as an effective treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
The researchers recently published their findings in the journal PLOS One.
Also referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), CFS is defined as persistent fatigue that cannot be alleviated with sleep or rest, and that is exacerbated by physical or mental activity.
As well as severe fatigue, symptoms of CFS may include muscle pain, poor memory and concentration, joint pain, headaches, tender lymph nodes in the neck or armpit, sore throat, and problems sleeping.
Diagnosing CFS is tricky; doctors do not know what causes the condition, and there are currently no tests for the disorder. Also, because symptoms of CFS are similar to so many other disorders, the condition often gets overlooked.
The treatment for CFS can be just as tricky as the diagnosis; there are currently no medications approved for the condition, largely because it is not known what causes the disorder.
However, Dr. Rowe and colleagues believe specific forms of physical therapy could be a possible treatment option, after finding certain body movements may provoke symptoms of the condition.
In previous work, Dr. Rowe and study co-author Rick Violand, a physical therapist, noticed that in some patients with CFS, body maneuvers that put a strain on their spine, nerves, or muscles appeared to trigger some symptoms of the condition, including fatigue and mental fogginess.
“We thought this reflected a fundamentally important and previously unappreciated mechanism of symptom provocation,” Dr. Rowe told Medical News Today.
Supine straight leg raise triggered CFS symptoms
To further investigate their observations, the researchers conducted a clinical study involving 60 individuals with CFS and 20 without the condition.
Participants completed either a supine straight leg raise or a sham leg raise for 15 minutes. In the supine straight leg raise, a person lays on their back while raising and holding one leg; the exercise is designed to strain the muscles and nerves.

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