February 20, 2001
British Medical Journal/MedscapeWire
Many patients with chronic fatigue syndrome have inaccurate illness beliefs that may perpetuate their condition. A study in the February 17 issue of the British Medical Journal finds that providing patients with medical explanations for symptoms to encourage graded exercise can substantially improve their condition.
A total of 148 patients diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome were randomized into 4 groups. Patients in the control group received standardized medical care. Patients in 3 intervention groups received various degrees of treatment, including explanations of symptoms that encouraged home-based graded exercise.
At one year, 69% of patients in the intervention groups had improved their physical functioning compared with 6% of patients in the control group. Similar improvements were seen in fatigue, sleep, disability and mood. Overall, the explanations of their symptoms convinced 94% of the patients to carry out graded activity.
This approach may be as effective as cognitive (mental) behavior therapy, but is shorter and requires less therapist skill, conclude the authors.