Post-Exertional Malaise in Women with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
J. Mark VanNess: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5902-8735
Journal of Women's Health
Health, Exercise, and Sport Sciences Department
OBJECTIVE: Postexertional malaise (PEM) is a defining characteristic of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) that remains a source of some controversy. The purpose of this study was to explore the effects of an exercise challenge on CFS symptoms from a patient perspective. METHODS: This study included 25 female CFS patients and 23 age-matched sedentary controls. All participants underwent a maximal cardiopulmonary exercise test. Subjects completed a health and well-being survey (SF-36) 7 days postexercise. Subjects also provided, approximately 7 days after testing, written answers to open-ended questions pertaining to physical and cognitive responses to the test and length of recovery. SF-36 data were compared using multivariate analyses. Written questionnaire responses were used to determine recovery time as well as number and type of symptoms experienced. RESULTS: Written questionnaires revealed that within 24 hours of the test, 85% of controls indicated full recovery, in contrast to 0 CFS patients. The remaining 15% of controls recovered within 48 hours of the test. In contrast, only 1 CFS patient recovered within 48 hours. Symptoms reported after the exercise test included fatigue, light-headedness, muscular/joint pain, cognitive dysfunction, headache, nausea, physical weakness, trembling/instability, insomnia, and sore throat/glands. A significant multivariate effect for the SF-36 responses (p < 0.001) indicated lower functioning among the CFS patients, which was most pronounced for items measuring physiological function. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study suggest that PEM is both a real and an incapacitating condition for women with CFS and that their responses to exercise are distinctively different from those of sedentary controls.
VanNess, J. M.,
Stevens, S. R.,
Stiles, T. L.
Post-Exertional Malaise in Women with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Journal of Women's Health, 19(2), 239–244.