Research has shown that recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is possible for some patients, and has identified two treatments most likely to lead to recovery.

The trial was led by Queen Mary, University of London, and carried out in collaboration with researchers from King’s College London, the University of Oxford and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

CFS is a long-term and debilitating condition that affects around 250,000 people in the UK. Symptoms include profound physical and mental fatigue (characteristically made worse by exertion), muscle and joint pain, disturbed sleep and both concentration and memory problems. The researchers studied 640 participants with CFS who were randomised into one of four treatment groups:

– Specialist medical care (SMC) alone;
– SMC plus adaptive pacing therapy (APT);
– SMC plus cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT);
– SMC plus graded exercise therapy (GET)

Evidence for recovery was assessed one year after participants were randomly allocated to treatments. Patients were classed as recovered if they no longer met several criteria for ill health which were initially used to define eligibility for the trial. Patients also had to rate themselves as being “much” or “very much better” in their overall health.

The latest results from the PACE trial show that cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and graded exercise therapy (GET), as supplements to specialist medical care, increase the likelihood of recovery from CFS three-fold compared to other treatments studied.

Peter White, lead co-principal investigator of the PACE trial and co-author of the latest paper said: “This is good news and shows that recovery from this debilitating condition is possible for some patients. We now need to go further to understand why only a relatively small proportion of patients recover, which shows how much this condition varies between individuals; one treatment is unlikely to work for everyone.”

The full paper is available via Open Access here:


This blog post is adapted from the press release by Queen Mary, University of London, which can be read in full here:


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