Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Exercise Worsens Symptoms of ME/CFS - Neuroscientist

US Neuroscientist Says Exercise is a Noxious Stimulus That Worsens Symptoms of ME/CFS

A highly regarded American neuroscientist who has researched CFS for more than a decade, has decried media reports based on The Lancet Psychiatry’s recent scientific article that claims graded exercise therapy (GET) is an effective treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

The Lancet Psychiatry report, published earlier this week, is the sixth based on the now dated PACE Trials that have been widely discredited by the international ME/CFS community.

Prof. J. Mark VanNess from the Californian University of the Pacific, referred specifically to The Lancet Psychiatry report’s claim that CFS patients have “fear avoidance beliefs” when it comes to exercise, and that this plays a role in “perpetuating fatigue and disability” in CFS.

In a letter published online in the popular Myalgic Encephalomyelitis blog, Just ME yesterday, Prof. VanNess said he was “saddened” by press reports that had appeared in leading newspapers including The Guardian, The Independent, the BBC, the Mail Online, The Telegraph, and The Irish Independent. “It seems to me they’ve once again missed important nuances of the disease.”

Prof. VanNess, who received his neuroscience doctorate from Florida State University in 1997, teaches biology, nutrition and exercise science at Pacific University. He is also committed to research on “the role of the autonomic nervous system in immune dysfunction,” and is particularly interested in “post-exertional malaise in women with CFS.”

Most People With ME/CFS Avoid Exercise

Most patients suffering from symptoms of ME/CFS avoid exercise, as Prof. VanNess points out in his letter that is addressed to Joan McParland, founder and coordinator of the Irish-based Newry and Mourne ME Fibromyalgia Support Group. But unlike the authors of The Lancet Psychiatry’s latest PACE article, he states that fear and avoidance of exercise is “an understandable response in ME/CFS.” They are afraid of exercise because they know that it will worsen their symptoms.
Our studies clearly show that dynamic exercise like walking or jogging exacerbates symptoms associated with ME/CFS. Dr. J. Mark VanNess
Not only is fear and avoidance of exercise “a natural defense mechanism against a harmful stimulus,” but US researchers use graded aerobic exercise to amplify and worsen the symptoms of ME/CFS, says Prof. VanNess. This is not done as a treatment that will be beneficial to patients, but rather as a therapeutic intervention that is intended to “improve quality of life for ME/CFS patients.” The therapy is very specific and focuses mainly on “strengthening muscles and improving range of motion.”

“We even provide tools like heart rate monitors to help patients avoid significant aerobic exertion,” he says.
As Prof. VanNess explains, fear of exercise and exertion is more than just an understandable response for those with ME/CFS. It is “a reasonable, knowledgeable, and learned response to a noxious stimulus. If ME/CFS patients could exercise away their symptoms they most certainly would, regardless of the pain. But that is not the case.”

Knowing that aerobic exercise will worsen the pathologies of ME/CFS, the exercise physiologists he works with focus rather on utilizing “intact metabolic pathways with strength training and recumbent stretching (that help alleviate symptoms). These exercise recommendations are consistent with our understanding of ME/CFS pathology.”
We would all hope that ME/CFS was viewed with attention given to immunological, metabolic, cardiovascular and neuroendocrinological dysfunction that has been demonstrated with previous research. Dr. J. Mark VanNess
This is the saddest part, because there is valid research that tells the story of ME/CFS the way it really is – but mainstream media does not appear to be listening...