The evidence base for physiotherapy in ME/CFS when considering PEM: a systematic review and narrative synthesis (Wormgoor and Rodenburg, 2021)

Pyrrhus

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The evidence base for physiotherapy in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome when considering post-exertional malaise: a systematic review and narrative synthesis
https://translational-medicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12967-020-02683-4

Excerpt:
Wormgoor and Rodenburg 2021 said:
Background
Due to the inconsistent use of diagnostic criteria in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), it is unsure whether physiotherapeutic management regarded effective in ME/CFS is appropriate for patients diagnosed with criteria that consider post-exertional malaise (PEM) as a hallmark feature.

Purpose
To appraise current evidence of the effects of physiotherapy on symptoms and functioning in ME/CFS patients in view of the significance of PEM in the applied diagnostic criteria for inclusion.

Methods
A systematic review of randomized controlled trials published over the last two decades was conducted. Studies evaluating physiotherapeutic interventions for adult ME/CFS patients were included. The diagnostic criteria sets were classified into three groups according to the extent to which the importance of PEM was emphasized: chronic fatigue (CF; PEM not mentioned as a criterion), CFS (PEM included as an optional or minor criterion) or ME (PEM is a required symptom). The main results of included studies were synthesized in relation to the classification of the applied diagnostic criteria. In addition, special attention was given to the tolerability of the interventions.

Results
Eighteen RCTs were included in the systematic review: three RCTs with CF patients, 14 RCTs with CFS patients and one RCT covering ME patients with PEM. Intervention effects, if any, seemed to disappear with more narrow case definitions, increasing objectivity of the outcome measures and longer follow-up.

Conclusion
Currently, there is no scientific evidence when it comes to effective physiotherapy for ME patients. Applying treatment that seems effective for CF or CFS patients may have adverse consequences for ME patients and should be avoided.
(emphasis added)
 

Pyrrhus

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Main points:
  • While exercise might help people with "chronic fatigue", without Post-exertional Malaise (PEM), it should be avoided in ME patients with PEM.
  • Previous studies that showed a benefit from exercise in patients with "chronic fatigue" can not be applied to ME patients.