The Real Story About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome



By Eric Ries in PTinMotion.


Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has come a long way since the 1980s, when it was widely dismissed as “yuppie flu” and was suspected by many health care providers of being a psychological rather than a physiological condition.

(A note on terminology: CFS goes by at least 3 names, per the sidebar below this article. As CFS remains the one by which the illness most widely is known, that’s the term PT in Motion is using.)

Nicole Rabanal, PT, was among the skeptics. Until late 2014 she considered “chronic fatigue syndrome” to be “a catch-all term that meant medical science didn’t know what the patient had or didn’t have.”

She changed her mind the morning she woke up “feeling, out of the blue, like I’d been hit by a truck—with severe flu-like symptoms, severe eye pain, headache, ‘heavy’ head, muscle weakness, random numbness and tingling sporadically throughout my body, and difficulty breathing and swallowing.” This sudden and dramatic shift in the then-46-year-old’s health led her on a year-long odyssey through the health care system, during which she saw 17 specialists and was at various times told she had depression, Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome, and myasthenia gravis.

When her fifth neurologist at last hit the nail on the head—CFS is a diagnosis of exclusion for which there is no test—he told her, “Stop doctor-shopping, get off your own back, and wrap your head around this.”

“What do you do with that?” she asks. “I decided that I needed to figure out how to manage this on my own.”


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