Paper Published by Dr. Karin Olson on the nature of "fatigue" in ME/CFS

Jun 01, 2015

I was fortunate to have the chance to work with Dr. Karin Olson, a professor of Nursing at U of Alberta and long time CFS researcher and her graduate student Oksana Zimka testing her hypothesis of the nature of fatigue in CFS. The descriptions given by the participants in this study clearly distinguished between the “tiredness” experienced by healthy individuals, the experience of “fatigue” described by those with ME/CFS on a good day and “exhaustion” common to bad days.

The Nature of Fatigue in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Karin Olson, Oksana Simka and Eleanor Stein Qualitative Health Research Feb 26 2015 pii: 1049732315573954.

Unfortunately the article is behind a paywall so I can’t post it on my website, but I can send individual copies for personal use if you would like to read more. Here is the abstract.


In this article, we report the findings of our study on the nature of fatigue in patients diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. Using ethnoscience as a design, we conducted a series of unstructured interviews and card sorts to learn more about how people with chronic fatigue syndrome describe fatigue. Participants (N = 14) described three distinct domains: tiredness, fatigue, and exhaustion. Most participants experienced tiredness prior to diagnosis, fatigue during daily life, and exhaustion after overexertion. We also discuss participants' ability to adapt to a variety of stressors and prevent shifts to exhaustion, and relate our findings to stress theory and other current research. Primary strategies that promoted adaptation to stressors included pacing and extended rest periods. These findings can aid health care professionals in detecting impending shifts between tiredness, fatigue, and exhaustion and in improving adaptive strategies, thereby improving quality of life.

Author: Eleanor (Ellie) Stein MD FRCP(C)

I am a psychiatrist with a small private practice in Calgary and am an assistant clinical professor in the faculty of medicine at the University of Calgary. Since 2000, I have worked with over 1000 patients, all with ME/CFS, FM and ES. My passion for this field comes from my own struggle with these diseases, my desire to improve my health and then pass on what I learn. My goal is for every patient in Canada to have access to respectful, effective health care within the publicly funded system. 


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