Chronic fatigue syndrome treatment

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is also known as myalgic encephalitis (ME). The extreme fatigue brought about by this condition is persistent, often overwhelming, and is associated with other symptoms, such as aching muscles, sore throats, deteriorated short-term memory and an increased sensitivity to noise and light. 

Why do fatigue symptoms persist?

We do not know the cause of CFS/ME, but the Royal Free London fatigue service can address the factors that cause fatigue symptoms to persist, and reduce their impact on everyday life.

Some of the factors that cause fatigue symptoms to be ongoing are: 

  • physical weakness: we can lose 10% of our muscle power from just a week in bed 
  • disturbed sleep patterns may lead to dizziness/headaches  
  • relapse brought about by excessive activity in a period when a sufferer feels better
  • weight changes alter stamina levels, making it hard to maintain levels of activity
  • a disturbed sleep pattern makes it difficult to feel refreshed
  • anxiety and depression affect energy levels, motivation and confidence
  • CFS/ME causes frustration, and a sense of being isolated or feeling misunderstood, which can aggravate pre-existing anxiety or depression.

CFS/ME sufferers often try to compensate these symptoms by resting more or sleeping longer which results in prolonging fatigue rather than easing it.

What chronic fatigue treatment does the Royal Free London provide?

Our specialist fatigue team provides a range of treatment options for chronic fatigue syndrome/ME.

Treating ME symptoms with cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behaviour therapy identifies behavioural patterns that may be contributing to your chronic fatigue. You and your therapist set your own goals which gradually increase activity levels, explore sleep difficulties, help manage worry, and identify negative behaviour.

Chronic fatigue relief: Graded Exercise Therapy (GET) 

Graded Exercise Therapy decreases physical and mental fatigue, and can alleviate fatigue symptoms giving you more energy.  

GET helps stabilise your daily activity to limit the ‘boom and bust’ cycle of exerting yourself when you’re feeling better and lets your body physically adapt. It focuses on your needs and covers; sleep pattern, strengthening and relaxation, setback planning and goal setting. 

Activity management (AM) to treat ‘boom and bust’ activity

Activity management also aims to help you break the ‘boom and bust’ cycle of activity. It teaches you strategies to help you manage your ME symptoms, such as balancing activity and establishing activity baselines, effective rest, improving your sleep, body mechanics and ergonomics. 

This therapy is goal-directed and our fatigue team ensures your objectives are regularly reviewed.

Royal Free London medical care for chronic fatigue symptoms

The Royal Free London fatigue team may provide medical care reviews to discuss new or altered fatigue symptoms, and the impact of other conditions you may have with your CFS/ME. 

Where required, drug treatment for problems like sleep or mood disorders may be recommended. 

Evidence shows that patients who are committed to consistent therapy achieve better results.

All therapies offered are dependent on funding from your local clinical commissioning group - find out more