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Behav Res Ther. 2007 Sep;45(9):2034-43. Epub 2007 Mar 14.

Is cognitive behaviour therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome also effective for pain symptoms?

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  • 1Expert Centre Chronic Fatigue, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Post Box 9011, 6525 EC Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) frequently report chronic pain symptoms. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for CFS results in a reduction of fatigue, but is not aimed at pain symptoms. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that a successful treatment of CFS can also lead to a reduction of pain. The second objective was to explore possible mechanisms of changes in pain. The third objective was to assess the predictive value of pain for treatment outcome. Data from two previous CBT studies were used, one of adult CFS patients (n=96) and one of adolescent CFS patients (n=32). Pain severity was assessed with a daily self-observation list at baseline and post-treatment. The location of pain in adults was assessed with the McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ). Patients were divided into recovered and non-recovered groups. Recovery was defined as reaching a post-treatment level of fatigue within normal range. Recovered adult and adolescent CFS patients reported a significant reduction of pain severity compared to non-recovered patients. Recovered adult patients also had fewer pain locations following treatment. The decrease in fatigue predicted the change in pain severity. In adult patients, a higher pain severity at baseline was associated with a negative treatment outcome.

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