Is Recovery Possible with Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

What We Know So Far

Some people do recover from fibromyalgia & ME/CFS. Buena Vista Images/Getty Images

Is it possible to recover from fibromyalgia (FMS) or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS)?

Speaking in general, yes, it is possible – some people report dramatic recoveries from FMS and ME/CFS. Looking at specific cases is a different story, though. So far, we just don't know enough about these conditions to say who has a good chance of recovery.

Both of these illnesses are considered chronic, which means they're expected to last a long time.

Contrary to popular belief, though, chronic doesn't mean it will never go away. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't.

Remission vs Cured

In my personal case of FMS, I've experienced a lot of improvement. My rheumatologist declared my officially in a long-term remission several years ago. I still have some symptoms – mostly dealing with sensory issues (such as noise and temperature sensitivity) and cognitive problems – but they're far milder than they used to be.

While I still have pain from other chronic conditions, I no longer have FMS pain. My fatigue and energy levels are better as well. I've had several injuries, a couple of major surgeries, and periods of intense stress that, before remission, I would've expected to cause flares. They haven't, which makes me confident that my remission is strong.

That said, I have no guarantees that all those symptoms won't come rushing back someday.

There are cases of long-term remissions suddenly ending. Some people in my situation say they're "cured," but I don't like calling it that because of the possibility of relapse.

I'm often asked how I got from where I was in 2007, which was all-but bedridden, to where I am now. I can credit a lot of things: acupuncture, supplements, lifestyle changes, treatment for overlapping conditions, etc.

However, while I saw definite improvements from several treatments and management strategies, I can't say for certain that my remission wasn't due to something else entirely.

Like I said, we have no way of knowing who will get significantly better – or worse, for that matter. One prominent FMS doctor says he sees substantial recovery in about one-third of his patients, substantial worsening in another third, and very little change over time in the rest.

What factors may lead to recovery? We don't know a lot about that, either. These conditions vary so much from person to person that we can't apply what worked for one person to everyone else.

Live a Healthy Lifestyle

About all we can say at this point is: live a healthy lifestyle and experiment with treatments to see what works for you. With luck and perseverance, you may take enough steps forward that you get back to normal.

Currently, researchers are working to identify and understand subgroups of us that share important characteristics. That could, someday, help us identify not only who has a good chance of recovery, but what treatments can get us there, as well.

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