Got ME? Just get out and exercise, say scientists

The UK's largest study of treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome has provided the first definitive evidence of what helps those who suffer from the disabling condition that affects 250,000 people in the UK.

The best therapies are those which help patients test the limits of their capacity, such as by gradually increasing the amount of exercise they take, the research shows. Therapy aimed at helping patients live within the limits of their capacity, by balancing rest and activity, is much less effective.

But patients' support groups angrily rejected the findings yesterday, saying they were "surprised and disappointed" by the "simplistic" results.

The attempt to settle the argument over the most effective treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) – also called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) – was never going to be easy. It is marked by poor memory and concentration, disturbed sleep, aches and pains and disabling fatigue. It can last for years and controversy has raged for decades over the best treatments.

Now researchers from London and Edinburgh who monitored 640 severely affected adults for a year have concluded that cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), in which patients are helped to think about and test how they can do more, and graded exercise therapy (GET), in which they are helped gradually to overcome the limits imposed by the illness, are the most effective treatments. In contrast, helping sufferers live within their limits, called Adaptive Pacing Therapy (APT), was much less helpful.

Overall, 60 per cent of patients who received CBT or GET made progress and 30 per cent recovered sufficiently to resume normal lives. Among those who received APT, half as many (15 per cent) resumed normal lives. Fewer than one in ten patients left untreated recover, the researchers said.

Michael Sharpe, professor of psychological medicine at the University of Edinburgh, and co-author of the report, said: "This is a useful effect for a substantial proportion of those affected, but it is not a solution to the illness."

The findings, published in The Lancet, were hailed by experts in chronic fatigue as "very significant." Derrick Wade, professor of neurological enablement at the Oxford Centre for Enablement said: "This means we can allocate resources to treatments that will benefit patients and stop allocating resources to treatments that will not."

However, Sir Peter Spencer, chief executive of Action for ME, said its own survey showed 82 per cent of respondents found pacing therapy helpful and a third said graded exercise made them worse. The ME Association said the findings were based on an outmoded model of the illness. "Deconditioning due to fear of activity is not the cause of the debilitating fatigue," it said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

    Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

    Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

    Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

    £15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

    Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us