LOS ANGELES, Wednesday, July 21, 2016 – A study published in PLOS ONE[1] earlier this week conducted by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) “can be provoked by imposing a mild to moderate strain to the muscles and nerves.”[2]

Study participants (comprised of 60 CFS patients and 20 healthy controls) were randomly assigned to groups performing one of two types of leg raise: a passive, supine straight leg raise (meaning individuals raised and held up their legs while laying on their backs) or a sham leg raise that did not, in fact, cause strain. During the study, CFS patients experiencing true strain “reported significantly increased body pain and concentration difficulties during the procedure” as compared to their sham leg raise counterparts.[2] Twenty-four hours later, “these same individuals who underwent the true strain also reported greater symptom intensity for lightheadedness and the overall combined score for symptoms.”[2]

Peter Rowe, M.D., lead author and director of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center Chronic Fatigue Clinic, told Solve ME/CFS Initiative (SMCI) President Carol Head, “We are grateful for the support of the organization in conducting this work. We are preparing an NIH application to continue the efforts…Thanks again for helping us get to this point.”

It is hoped that further studies in this vein will be conducted in order to better understand the prevalence, risk factors, and impact of muscle and nerve strain in CFS as well as how to best return more normal function to those suffering from the illness.

To read the PLOS study in its entirety, visit

About the Solve ME/CFS Initiative (SMCI)

The Solve ME/CFS Initiative (SMCI) was founded in 1987 and has established itself as the leading non-profit organization dedicated to ME/CFS. The organization’s mission is to make ME/CFS widely understood, diagnosable, and treatable by stimulating and conducting research aimed at the early detection, objective diagnosis, and effective treatment of ME/CFS. SMCI is the first and only ME/CFS organization to earn the highest possible distinction (a 4-star rating) from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator.

[1] Rowe PC, Fontaine KR, Lauver M, Jasion SE, Marden CL, Moni M, et al. (2016) Neuromuscular Strain Increases Symptom Intensity in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. PLoS ONE 11(7): e0159386. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0159386



  1. I wanted to point out a Story I read the other day a Woman & her children all diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome type 3 Hypermobility she also had history diagnosis of CFS she was sent to Gastro for Gut issues food intolerance turns out she asked to be screened for Sucrose intolerance that test was Negative she was told she actually had fructose intolerance she then brought her children to be seen by a Metabolic Genetic Doctor she confirmed EDS 3 in all them but also carried out another test they also had ‘hereditary fructose intolerance’ so for anyone with food issues I would look into this & rule it in/out…

  2. What a fascinating line of research this is. Rowes findings definitely resonate with the weird stiffness and pain I feel in my limbs. Congrats to the SMCI for funding it. 🙂

  3. Was a study seriously necessary to arrive at these findings? Anyone that suffers from CFS could’ve flatly stated that this was going to be the results of the study. In my opinion this has failed to uncover anything that was not previously known.

    • And, is it really the best use of NIH grant funds (if the application results in an actual grant)?

    • Yeah, it seemed redundant. CFS sufferers get post-exertional malaise… one of the defining features of CFS.

      Next in breaking news, flu sufferers have been found to have fevers, compared to non-infected controls!

  4. My thoughts exactly! This was one of the first symptoms that sent me to find a specialist. All the symptom pages call it “Post exertional malaise “. Am I right?

  5. I agree with the preceding comments of frustration that this study seems particularly redundant. Many years ago another article was published actually explaining the process that causes the fatigue after exercise. Called, “oxygen debt”, it is a natural process where, with extreme physical activity–like what a marathon runner, Cross-country runner, Triathlon athlete and so forth use–the amount of oxygen the muscles use is so extreme, it results in a likewise extreme exertion level and fatigue. In normal people, the recovery is but an hour or two. But in CFS people, the amount of exercise is minimal to cause extreme exertion that requires sometimes many days to recover. The study I refer to is something like 10 years old now. So, this new study really is not news. It is a bit frustrating, like being on a squirrel cage, round and round…

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