Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)/chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterised by persistent and disabling fatigue, exercise intolerance, cognitive difficulty, and musculoskeletal/joint pain. Post-exertional malaise is a worsening of these symptoms after a physical or mental exertion and is considered a central feature of the illness. Scant observations in the available literature provide qualitative assessments of post-exertional malaise in patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. To enhance our understanding, Stussman et al. formed focus groups and listened to patients’ experiences to better understand post-extertional malaise.
The authors found that the experience of post-exertional malaise in ME/CFS varies greatly between individuals and leads to a diminished quality of life. ME/CFS patients describe post-exertional malaise as all-encompassing with symptoms affecting every part of the body, difficult to predict or manage, and requiring complete bedrest to fully or partially recover. Given the extensive variability in patients, further research identifying subtypes of post-exertional malaise could lead to better targeted therapeutic options.