Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - Treatment Overview

Since there is not yet a cure for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), the key to living with CFS is treating your symptoms.

  • Find a primary doctor who understands CFS and how to treat it, and who helps you feel supported.
  • Track what helps you feel better, as well as the things that make your symptoms worse.
  • Use a mix of medical care, daily self-care, and support.
  • For regular support you can count on, work with a professional counselor, a CFS support group, or both.
  • Get specialist care when you need it. Sign "release of information" forms so that your doctors can work together as a team.

Treat the worst first

Start by listing your worst symptoms-the ones that make it hardest to get through the day. With your doctor, focus first on treating those symptoms. Decide whether a specialist might be helpful for any of them.

The most common CFS symptoms can also be the most treatable.


Good sleep habits can help improve the quality of your sleep. If you also try medicine for sleep, it's best to start on a low dose. Certain antidepressants help with sleep, mood, and chronic pain, so your doctor may suggest trying one.

Insomnia: Improving Your Sleep


Different kinds of pain can be treated in different ways. If one treatment doesn't work, you and your doctor can try another until you find what works best for you.

  • It's important to control focused pain, such as arthritis or migraine, because this kind of pain can make CFS body pain worse. First try an over-the-counter pain reliever, like acetaminophen (such as Tylenol), ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin), or naproxen (such as Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • There are different types of prescription medicines that help with pain, such as antidepressants for chronic pain and narcotic medicine for severe pain. A narcotic is a short-term treatment because it can become addictive if you use it a lot.
  • Other treatments that can help with CFS pain include acupuncture, massage, or yoga.



Do all you can to take charge of your fatigue level. Even when you have more energy, keep a low-key pace throughout each day.

Depression, anxiety, and distress

Living with CFS can be as much a mental health challenge as it is a physical one. It's easy to get caught in a cycle of frustration, anger, and depression.

  • Work with your doctor to watch for signs of depression. It can be easy to mistake depression for CFS fatigue.
  • If your doctor suggests an antidepressant, ask if there is one that may not only improve your mood, but also help control your pain and help you sleep.
  • For support and help with mood problems, you can also work with a professional counselor who understands CFS.

Get specialist care when you need it

You can expect your symptoms to come and go. For some people, certain things trigger long periods of worse symptoms. Visit your doctor every few months to help track your symptoms and check for any need to change your treatment.

Get specialized care if you need it. For example:

  • A rehabilitation specialist can help you start a graded exercise plan. He or she can also treat pain.
  • A pain management specialist can offer a number of pain treatments.
  • There are some specialists who work with experimental treatments such as antiviral medicines.


What to think about

There are many unproven remedies, such as special diets or mineral supplements, that some people recommend for treating CFS. There is no evidence that any of these are effective.2

Your mind and body are connected and affect each other. Physical illnesses can be made worse-or better-by your feelings and attitudes, and vice versa. Learn as much as you can about CFS. Then work with your doctor to learn ways to cope with your symptoms. Get emotional support from your health professionals as well as from your family and friends.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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