One cold evening in late July, Emerge Australia’s Nurse Educator, Kate Herbert, presented to the Australian Physiotherapy Association pain special interest group about ME/CFS. With over 100 participants, including attendees also from other special interest groups, this was the most well attended presentation Kate has delivered to date.
Kate’s presentation drew on research and practice. Attendees heard about the prevalence, potential causes, diagnosis and biology of ME/CFS, focussing on what we know about activity/exercise and post-exertional malaise. CPET and other research findings were used to demonstrate what happens within the body of someone with ME/CFS when they exercise (or even attempt activities of daily living), and how this differs from someone without ME/CFS, especially on following day/s.
Kate drew on case studies gathered from the community who have accessed pain management services from physiotherapists, to explain how physios can adjust their practice. The primary focus was for physios to adopt a safe approach to exercise. Paramount is pacing and a tailored exercise program that responds to the patient’s symptoms, working within their individual energy envelope. The concept of a baseline was discussed, including how to help patients identify their baseline and when they are in PEM. Kate emphasised the need for strong communication between practitioner and patient, so that safety and risk in exercise were well understood and practiced.
We were fortunate that one of our Telehealth nurses, Laura Allen, was also able to attend to assist with answering questions at the end of presentation. The physios were particularly interested to learn more about:
- NDIS and DSP applications
- The benefits of a separate, dedicated stream for pain management group programs
- How to help with getting a diagnosis
- Sensory sensitivity and its relationship with post exertional malaise
- Relationship with post-viral fatigue and Long COVID.
Feedback from the presentation was, once again, overwhelmingly positive. Participants particularly noted how helpful it was to understand how to adjust their practice to create a more accessible environment for people with ME/CFS.
Emerge Australia would like to extend our thanks to Nicole Moore, who invited us to present and who shared some of the helpful adaptations she has implemented in her own pain management clinic for ME/CFS patients. Multidisciplinary discussions, that draw on the clinical expertise across specialities, helps us to contribute to a health system that is safe and accessible for our community.
We look forward to collaborating with other allied health staff. If you know of a team of allied health professionals who would benefit from training about ME/CFS, please get in touch [email protected].