Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS affects more than 200,000 people a year, with a large portion of them being females. Symptoms can range from joint pain and headaches to tender lymph nodes, sore throat, and trouble concentrating.

Because these symptoms can be associated with numerous other illnesses, and because there are no tests for this disorder, diagnosing and then treating CFS is incredibly complicated. The only constant seems to be that physical activity usually makes the symptoms worse, rather than better.

Dr. Peter Rowe from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and co-author Rick Violand, a physical therapist, had noticed that movements that put a strain on a patient’s spine, nerves or muscles tended to trigger CFS symptoms, causing increased fatigue and decreased mental clarity.

Particularly, they concluded that the supine (flat on your back) straight leg raise was a trigger for CFS symptoms. According to Dr. Rowe, “…a straight leg raise maneuver places traction on the muscles and peripheral nerves in the lower limb, as well as on the lower spinal nerve roots, the meninges, and the sympathetic nervous system chain.”

If certain movements can make symptoms worse, could other movements make symptoms better? Dr. Rowe suggests that physical therapy may be an effective treatment for chronic fatigue symptoms. At Florida Sportsmedicine and Orthopaedics, we offer physical therapy (PT) as a treatment option for many conditions such as CFS.

Through physical therapy, you will work with our physical therapist closely to monitor your CFS symptoms at the time of therapy, and also for hours after the session is over. You’ll be asked by Ann Talkington, physical therapist, to take notes of what triggers a worsening in symptoms or what is alleviating your symptoms.

Gradually, your physical therapy sessions become longer and more focused on those movements that lessen the symptoms. While more research is still needed to determine the exact connection between muscle strains and chronic fatigue syndrome, physical therapy is a promising treatment and has helped many patients reduce the effects.

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