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Physical Therapy Today: Can physical therapy help chronic fatigue syndrome?


Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a clinical condition characterized by excessive fatigue and body pain. It is often preceded by a viral illness and is associated with symptoms like muscle aches and pains, joint pains, difficulty sleeping and at times, depression. CFS symptoms last 6 months or longer and typically have a distinct period of onset, often during periods of additional stress.

The symptoms are unpredictable and can vary from mild discomfort to excruciating pain. Depending on its severity, this condition has the potential to alter the lives of the patient and family members, and requires a comprehensive treatment plan.

For decades, the healthcare community has debated the best way to treat CFS. Most patients require a combination of medical intervention and physical therapy. Let’s take a closer look at how physical therapy can effectively combat CFS.

The importance of supervision

A supervised, progressive exercise program is the foundation of physical therapy treatment for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Physical Therapy might begin with a series of simple stretches, progressive strengthening, and aerobic exercises. You can expect an improvement in motion, strength, endurance, and pain.

For example, a patient may be asked to walk for a few minutes a day. As time progresses, the patient is able to walk faster, and over longer distances. Supervised, progressive exercise is the key. CFS is characterized by days when the patient feels really active and energetic, and other days when they feel tired and listless. Physical therapy helps improve the physical and the mental state of the patient over a period of time.

Other physical therapy interventions such as myofasical release, may help improve sleep, pain, anxiety levels, and overall quality of life. Myofascial release is a technique where the therapist uses gentle, sustained pressure and/or stretching to release tightness in the fascia. Fascia is a thin tissue that wraps around every muscle and structure in the body. Fascia forms a body-wide network of connective tissue essential for proper function.

The life altering impact of physical therapy

Physical therapy can change lives, in more ways than one. It can help treat most types of pain and dysfunction in the body by identifying the underlying cause and its impact on bones, muscles and joints. You’ll be surprised with everything we can do. The best way for you to discover this is to schedule an appointment and come in to our office.

For patients with CFS, physical therapy can transform quality of life. It helps patients strike the right balance between rest and movement. An improvement in physical function can positively impact every aspect of the patient’s life, including emotional and mental state.

Casey Cortney, MPT is a licensed physical therapist and owner of Sidney Rehabilitation & Wellness Clinic. Casey can be reached at 308-254-4979 or by visiting the website at


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