Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The following is a brief summary of what I have learned about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also known as  Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).  I have listed some of the sources below.

Everyone experiences fatigue from time to time, and it’s estimated that about 25% of all patients presenting to a doctor’s office admit to some level of fatigue. The term ‘Chronic’ is used when the symptoms have had a duration of more than 6 months.

Of all patients complaining of severe and chronic fatigue, it is estimated that about 40%  have a serious, but often treatable, previously unrecognized medical or psychiatric condition (such as diabetes, anemia, thyroid disease, depression, substance abuse).

If you experience severe and sustained problems with fatigue it is therefore very important to first be evaluated thoroughly by a physician to exclude correctible underlying conditions.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that between 1 and 4 million Americans suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS/CFIDS/ME, is a debilitating and complex disorder characterized by profound fatigue that is not improved by bed rest and that may be worsened by physical or mental activity. Persons with CFS most often function at a substantially lower level of activity than they were capable of before the onset of illness. In addition to these key defining characteristics, patients report various nonspecific symptoms, including weakness, muscle pain, impaired memory and/or mental concentration, insomnia, and post-exertional fatigue lasting more than 24 hours.

To qualify for the diagnosis of ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’ you must:

1.  Have severe chronic fatigue of six months or longer duration with other know medical conditions excluded by clinical diagnosis;   and

2.  Concurrently have four or more of the following symptoms:

- substantial impairment in short-term memory or concentration;
- sore throat; tender lymph nodes;
- muscle pain;
- multi-joint pain without swelling or redness;
- headaches of a new type, pattern or severity;
- unrefreshing sleep;
- post-exertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours.

What is the Cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/CFIDS/ME)?

Despite an intensive, nearly 20-year search, the cause of CFS remains unknown. Many different infectious agents and physiologic and psychological causes have been considered, and the search continues.

Much of the ongoing research into a cause has centered on the roles the immune, endocrine and nervous systems may play in CFS. More recently, interactions among these factors are under evaluation.

Recent research has focused on the potential role of a retrovirus infection in the development of CFS/ME.  Remarkable findings in a recent study published in the journal Science in October 2009 may prove to provide a key to our understanding of the illness, but this finding will need verification and further study.  (Click for a link to the journal abstract): Science

Genetic and environmental factors may play a role in developing and/or prolonging the illness, although more research is needed to confirm this. CDC is applying cutting-edge genomic and proteomic tools in an effort to understand the origins and pathogenesis of CFS.

CFS is not caused by depression, although the two illnesses often coexist, and many patients with  CFS have no psychiatric disorder.

Prognosis

Some patients suffering from CFS/CFIDS/ME have reported spontaneous recovery after several months of illness.  The prospect of recovery, however, decreases significantly the longer the patient has the illness.

Anecdotal reports exists of patient recovering after the use of a variety of therapeutic modalities – these have included antiviral drugs, antibiotics, immunoglobulin injections to mention a few – but when studied in randomized, controlled trials they have been no better than placebo.

Proven Therapies

Graded exercise therapy has been demonstrated to improve the functional level of patients with CFS, and prolonged rest have certainly not been shown to be helpful.  The challenge is, however, the well known ‘post-exertional fatigue’, which for many makes attempts at exercise-therapy very unattractive.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been shown to help patients with CFS/CFIDS/ME cope better with their disability and function at a higher level, but generally not achieve full recovery.  The average length of this treatment course is 16 weeks; attending a session one-to-two times weekly.  The patient must be highly motivated as the therapy requires active participation in therapy.

Sources:

www.cdc.gov/cfs/
www.cfids.org

A Theory of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that offer Hope of Full Recovery:

The Lightning Process is designed on the theory that people who experience a significant physiologic stress (like a severe infection or significant emotional trauma) may for some unknown reason develop an experience of a prolonged state of ‘overwhelmedness’ which in some way profoundly affects their psycho-neuro-immunology.  We have nearly all experienced the profound fatigue that can be associated with a serious case of the flue or gastro-enteritis.  Those of us who have been served some devastating news (like news of the sudden death of a very close friend or relative) have experienced how devastating news can instantly zap you of energy.  For some unknown reason some of us are unable to navigate out of this overwhelming fatigue and end up with prolonged, disabling effects that completely destroy our lives.

The Lightning Process® aims to ‘reprogram the brain’.  Well aware of the enormous potential of the brain to reorganize and compensate for functional losses (neuroplasticity) the Lightning Process® employs a variety of techniques to give the patients tools to re-direct physiological and mental energy which often results in dramatic improvements.  After only 3 intensive days most patients experience a recovery they could only dream about.  The effects are often so dramatic that they may appear ‘magical’, but there is no supernatural element to the recovery – but well researched and proven techniques that redirect physiological energy to restore health.  Even though some experience dramatic effects during the 3 days of training, it may take several weeks to months to “solidify/fully establish” the new ways to react to (neuroplasticity) the ‘”stressors” that have drained your life of energy, and rebuild the physical endurance which have suffered from months to years of a sedentary life-style. The ‘brain-fog’ and hypersensitivity to sound and light (which some experience) was, however, in my case dramatically improved in a matter of days.

Here is a link to a recently published (02/2009) review article discussing the scientific basis for the ‘sustained arousal’ concept – which may help explain why the Lightning Process has such impressive results:

“Vegard B. Wyller et al.  Can sustained arousal explain the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”

To benefit from this form of training you need to:

1. Have been examined by a physician and found to have the diagnosis of CFS/ME (i.e. no severe anemia, severe hypothyroidism, severe depression or other potentially curable conditions)

2. You have to be highly motivated – as the training requires you to actively use the techniques you are taught to achieve recovery.

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Here is how Phil Parker (the originator of the training program)
explains the ‘Lightning Process®’:

What does the Lightning Process do?

Key components of the training include participants learning exactly how their brain and body have become trapped in a number of damaging unconscious responses, which have blighted their health and stunted their lives. Then using a powerful combination of techniques uniquely developed using the philosophies and research of NLP, osteopathy, self hypnosis and life coaching, they will be extensively trained as to how to successfully replace those old unhelpful responses and start to regain their health, sense of self and their future.

How does it achieve that?

Using the Lightning Process technique of combining particular body movements and postures with a set of precisely targeted questions many people have got their health back into balance, quickly and successfully recovering from real illnesses that had troubled them for years.


The Lightning Process® is now available in the US

Link to the Lightning Process® Main Website in London