Posts Tagged fatigue
Feeling tired is a normal part of life. Whether you didn’t get a good night of sleep or wore yourself out with a busy day or an exerting activity, your body can only handle so much before you start to feel the physical effects of being tired. In cases like these, all you need to do is rest in order to feel re-charged and rejuvenated. But for individuals who have suffered from a stroke, it’s not that easy.
Fatigue after a stroke is common, and it’s different from simply feeling tired. Post-stroke fatigue can make somebody feel like they completely lack energy or strength, with a persistent feeling of being tired or weary. Unlike typical tiredness, a nap or sleeping longer at night won’t solve things. If you are experiencing post-stroke fatigue, it is important to consult with your doctor so you can take the proper steps to start feeling better and more energized.
What is Post-Stroke Fatigue?
Post-stroke fatigue can occur after a mild or severe stroke, and roughly 40 to 70 percent of stroke patients experience this “invisible symptom.” It’s a particularly frustrating side effect of a stroke because it can make you feel completely exhausted and off your game, which in turn makes recovering from the stroke seem even more difficult.
Those who experience post-stroke fatigue can feel like they are not in control of their recovery, as it’s hard for them to muster the energy to participate in their rehab activities or normal day-to-day functions. Many individuals with post-stroke fatigue initially confuse it with “being tired,” but post-stroke fatigue is not the same thing as just being tired. It can come out of nowhere, without warning, and rest isn’t always the solution.
Post-stroke fatigue is draining both physically and emotionally/mentally, and the severity of the stroke does not seem to correlate to the severity of the fatigue. Even a mild stroke can result in extreme post-stroke fatigue, and even if you suffered a stroke some time ago and feel as if you’ve made a full recovery, post-stroke fatigue can still impact you.
What Causes Post-Stroke Fatigue?
Experts aren’t entirely sure what causes post-stroke fatigue because there has been limited research on the subject.Medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease can play a role, as can any pre-existing fatigue issues an individual had before suffering from a stroke. In addition to fatigue, sleep apnea is another issue reported by stroke survivors, so it’s possible there is some sort of link between the two, though nothing has been proven.
Survivors often feel stressed or depressed about the stroke afterwards, from worrying about the recovery process to being concerned with their symptoms. Stress and the mental demands that come with it can lead to fatigue. There are a lot of unknowns about the cause of post-stress fatigue, but one thing is certain: a stroke takes a big toll on a person’s body, and many stroke survivors feel severe fatigue as a result.
How Do You Tell if You Have Post-Stroke Fatigue?
Remember that there’s a difference between feeling tired and having post-stroke fatigue. The latter will give you afeeling of complete exhaustion; you will lack all energy and feel extremely weary. You will probably feel like you have to rest every day, or even multiple times a day. This can make it difficult to accomplish things, whether it’s something as simple as spending time with family, running errands, or even attending your post-stroke therapy sessions.
Until you feel the type of exhaustion that comes with post-stroke fatigue it’s difficult to explain, so don’t feel frustrated if your friends and family don’t understand why you’re struggling. If you think you have post-stroke fatigue, don’t hesitate to consult with your doctor.
Tips to Increase Your Energy
The first step in combating post-stroke fatigue is to discuss it with your doctor. Let them know what you’ve been feeling. Your doctor will probably start the process by making sure you’ve had an up-to-date physical. With that information, your doctor can rule out other potential causes for your fatigue or determine if your fatigue might stem from your medication.
It goes without saying, but try to take naps if time allows. Naps won’t cure you of your fatigue long term, but resting when you feel run down can help you feel more refreshed, even if only for a short while.
Do your best to relax. Don’t let your post-stroke fatigue, or any other side effects of your stroke, get you down. Stay positive! Being stressed or tense will only sap you of more energy. A positive attitude goes a long way in feeling upbeat and energetic. Try to get back into the swing of things by returning to your pre-stroke routines. Simple things like staying active and involved with friends and family can yield big benefits.
Yes, it will seem overwhelming at times. Suffering from a stroke, dealing with the aftermath, and having no energy on top of it can be tough, but celebrate your successes. Take baby steps, and be proud of the progress you’ve made. Focus on what you’ve accomplished during your recovery so far, rather than dread what’s left to be done.
Tired of Being Tired
Post-stroke fatigue is a daunting condition, and many people who are recovering from a stroke might not even realize they have it, instead thinking they are simply tired. If you’ve had a stroke and find yourself feeling sapped of your energy on a consistent basis, talk to your doctor. There’s a chance you have post-stroke fatigue. You’re not alone; 40 to 70 percent of stroke survivors experience this kind of exhaustion.
By speaking with the proper medical professionals, making it a point to rest as often as possible, and having a positive mindset, you can combat the constant drowsiness and work on returning to your pre-stroke energy levels.
Why does stress bring back my TBI symptoms with a vengeance? It feels like a knife reopening a wound. What goes wrong in the brain after injury that makes this happen?
Stress occurs when there is a gap between the current task demands and the resources you have to meet those demands. Your brain interprets this as a threat. Acute stress — as in immediate physical danger — produces a physical reaction (the fight-or-flight response) that includes increased pupil dilation, perspiration, increased heart rate and blood pressure, rapid breathing, muscle tension, and increased mental alertness. However, less immediately threatening or prolonged stressors, such as ongoing money problems, too many things to get done in one day, even something like unexpected company, will produce these reactions. They may occur to a lessor degree, but ongoing stress reactions, even mild ones, will result in your body preparing for a long-term protective response.
Fatigue, concentration lapses, irritability, and lethargy result as the stress continues without relief. You probably recognize these as some of the TBI symptoms you feel coming back with a vengeance. Having experienced a TBI makes you both more susceptible to these symptoms, and these symptoms make it more difficult for you to effectively use whatever coping or compensatory strategies you may have developed to manage your TBI symptoms.
Learning to manage stress is important for all of us, and of particular importance to the recovery process after TBI. Techniques such as relaxation, time management, goal-setting, organization, cognitive-behavioral techniques, and lifestyle modifications can all be helpful in managing stress. It is recommended that you get some help and support in figuring out which of these techniques will be most useful for you from a mental health provider, a case manager, a life coach, a support group, or even a good friend if the stress levels are not overwhelming or seriously affecting your life. There are plenty of resources available for stress management, and a lot of information online, but sifting through it and tailoring it for your particular needs may be challenging without some support.
For more information on stress and stress management, click here.
[Abstract+References] Cognitive Behavior Therapy to Treat Sleep Disturbance and Fatigue After Traumatic Brain Injury: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial – Conference Paper
To evaluate the efficacy of adapted cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for sleep disturbance and fatigue in individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Parallel 2-group randomized controlled trial.
Adults (N=24) with history of TBI and clinically significant sleep and/or fatigue complaints were randomly allocated to an 8-session adapted CBT intervention or a treatment as usual (TAU) condition.
Cognitive behavior therapy.
Main Outcome Measures
The primary outcome was the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) posttreatment and at 2-month follow-up. Secondary measures included the Insomnia Severity Index, Fatigue Severity Scale, Brief Fatigue Inventory (BFI), Epworth Sleepiness Scale, and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.
At follow-up, CBT recipients reported better sleep quality than those receiving TAU (PSQI mean difference, 4.85; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.56–7.14). Daily fatigue levels were significantly reduced in the CBT group (BFI difference, 1.54; 95% CI, 0.66–2.42). Secondary improvements were significant for depression. Large within-group effect sizes were evident across measures (Hedges g=1.14–1.93), with maintenance of gains 2 months after therapy cessation.
Adapted CBT produced greater and sustained improvements in sleep, daily fatigue levels, and depression compared with TAU. These pilot findings suggest that CBT is a promising treatment for sleep disturbance and fatigue after TBI.
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[Systematic Review] Does Tai Chi relieve fatigue? A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials – Full Text
Fatigue is not only a familiar symptom in our daily lives, but also a common ailment that affects all of our bodily systems. Several randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have proven Tai Chi to be beneficial for patients suffering from fatigue, however conclusive evidence is still lacking. A systematic review and meta-analysis was performed on all RCTs reporting the effects of Tai Chi for fatigue.
In the end of April 2016, seven electronic databases were searched for RCTs involving Tai Chi for fatigue. The search terms mainly included Tai Chi, Tai-ji, Taiji, fatigue, tiredness, weary, weak, and the search was conducted without language restrictions. Methodological quality was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool. RevMan 5.3 software was used for meta-analysis. Publication bias was estimated with a funnel plot and Egger’s test. We also assessed the quality of evidence with the GRADE system.
Ten trials (n = 689) were included, and there was a high risk of bias in the blinding. Two trials were determined to have had low methodological quality. Tai Chi was found to have improved fatigue more than conventional therapy (standardized mean difference (SMD): -0.45, 95% confidence interval (CI): -0.70, -0.20) overall, and have positive effects in cancer-related fatigue (SMD:-0.38, 95% CI: -0.65, -0.11). Tai Chi was also more effective on vitality (SMD: 0.63, 95% CI: 0.20, 1.07), sleep (SMD: -0.32, 95% CI: -0.61, -0.04) and depression (SMD: -0.58, 95% CI: -1.04, -0.11). However, no significant difference was found in multiple sclerosis-related fatigue (SMD: -0.77, 95% CI: -1.76, 0.22) and age-related fatigue (SMD: -0.77, 95% CI: -1.78, 0.24). No adverse events were reported among the included studies. The quality of evidence was moderate in the GRADE system.
The results suggest that Tai Chi could be an effective alternative and /or complementary approach to existing therapies for people with fatigue. However, the quality of the evidence was only moderate and may have the potential for bias. There is still absence of adverse events data to evaluate the safety of Tai Chi. Further multi-center RCTs with large sample sizes and high methodological quality, especially carefully blinded design, should be conducted in future research.
Although no one can exactly quantify or document fatigue , fatigue is a common symptom not only deeply related to most acute and chronic diseases, but also to everyday life. It is not only common, but problematic, for people with conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis . The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) defined cancer related fatigue as ‘an persistent, unusual, subjective feeling of tiredness correlated with cancer or cancer treatment that obstruct to normal functioning’ . Definition of fatigue was also described as “a subjective feeling of lacking mental and/or physical energy, which was perceived by the caregiver or individuals interfering with usual and desired activities” . Because of its subjective nature, fatigue can only be gauged by self-reported or caregiver-reported questionnaires . Fatigue generally lasts longer than somnolence . Tiredness is a state of temporary decreasing in strength and energy, which may be experienced as a partial of fatigue . Some authors simply divided fatigue into acute and chronic fatigue . Acute fatigue occurs in healthy populations, with a rapid onset and short duration. After a period of rest and exercise, it is generally relieved. Chronic fatigue mainly affects clinically disordered individuals and is onset gradually, persists and develops over time. It usually can’t be alleviated by usual recovery techniques . As a symptom, fatigue is a common complaint among most people, and many ailments are accompanied by fatigue. However, it is often ignored, under-diagnosed, and seen as a natural result of physical deterioration .
A previous study had shown that 10.6% of women and 10.2% of men complained of fatigue for ≥ 1 month in the South London general practice attenders . The prevalence rate of chronic fatigue was 10.7% in general Chinese population . Among older adults with myocardial infarction, fatigue is frequently reported to be one of the most serious barriers to physical activity . Fatigue occurs in 50%-83% of patients with multiple sclerosis . Among breast cancer patients 58%-94% undergoing treatment and 56%-95% who are post-chemotherapy experience fatigue . Although the methods, standards, and results of these studies are not always consistent, it is undeniable that fatigue is a common symptom from which many patients suffer.
The mechanisms behind fatigue are unclear , however they may be related to a patient’s physical condition. There is no panacea for fatigue other than treating the symptoms . Evidence has shown that exercise including walking, running, jogging, swimming, resistance (strengthening) training, stretching, aerobic exercise can counter fatigue among sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome , multiple sclerosis , fibromyalgia  and among cancer survivors [17,18]. So we supposes that Tai Chi, a traditional Chinese martial art, may be an effective treatment for patients suffering from fatigue.
Tai Chi has popular in China for several centuries. Many different types of Tai Chi exist, but most consist of movement, meditation and breathing, while concentrating on the mind and maintaining low intensity [19, 20], and further modulate various aspects of the body including the physical, the psychological, mood and spirit . In the theory of Chinese medicine (CM), Tai Chi can maintain the harmony between qi and the blood, keep yin and yang in balance and also enhance immunity [22, 23]. These properties are both important in relieving fatigue and maintaining energy. Qi, the energy which promotes the body’s movement, can circulate around the entire body freely if yin and yang are kept in balance .
Tai Chi may relieve fatigue via different mechanisms of action. Firstly, through slow movement and weight shifting, Tai Chi may relieve stress, make people more happy  and promote relaxation . Secondly, the proven efficacy of Tai Chi to enhance aerobic capacity and immune function  and to improve pain , depression and psychological well-being  may be beneficial to relieve fatigue.
An advantage of Tai Chi is that it is easy to learn, teach, and popularize, and more reports on evidence of its effects should lead to it becoming even more popular. As a low impact exercise, Tai Chi may be ideal for people with fatigue, lack of exercise or who do not have active lifestyles . Several studies have reported that Tai Chi plays a critical role in fighting fatigue [29–32]. However, there not been explicit studies to reach a conclusion on Tai Chi’s effects on fatigue. Others have shown no difference between Tai Chi groups and control groups [33,34]. In addition, most of the studies focus on only one ailment [32,35,36]. As far as we know, the majority of the literature on Tai Chi intervention for fatigue is empirical, and uses small sample sizes. Few of the existing studies have explored fatigue as the primary outcome. To date, there have been no systematic reviews nor meta-analyses to evaluate the effects of Tai Chi for fatigue, but single RCTs based on a specific population in a certain place. This systematic review evaluates the effects and safety of Tai Chi for fatigue, and provides an overall understanding of the current situation, as well as problems in this field.
The physical, neurological and emotional challenges that may arise from an acquired brain injury (ABI) are vast. Different causes and injuries create consequences that vary among individuals. Therapists need to be perceptive in order to both address struggles and provide avenues for constructive thinking.
One of the largest hurdles therapists encounter in rehabilitation with individuals who have suffered an ABI is the patient often lacks insight into their own deficits. Their injured brain signals they are fine and can successfully perform activities they used to do before injury, when in fact they may be struggling with anything from orientation and memory to executive function. This is challenging for family members and caregivers and is also is a barrier for treatment if the patient does not come to terms with these new deficits. Although insight typically improves to some degree as the patient progresses, giving the right level and amount of explanation about what has happened and future planning is helpful.
A thorough evaluation should be completed early on to identify cognitive deficits. Once strengths and deficits are identified, treatment can begin. Include tasks to promote gains in deficit areas such as memory and attention, such as deductive and/or abstract reasoning tasks, working memory tasks or word-retrieval activities. Also think about how strengths can be utilized to assist in this process. If a patient’s reading comprehension is better than auditory comprehension, printed information should be used to improve their ability to comprehend spoken information.
Combat common struggles by demonstrating compensatory strategies that aid the individual in participating in life activities. For patients experiencing memory and organization deficits, be prepared with a list of smart phone apps and functions they can use to set alerts for appointments, manage tasks, make lists, etc.
Fatigue is common in individuals recovering from a brain injury. Their brain is working “overtime” to make sense of things, and performing tasks successfully may take a great deal of conscious thought and effort. Assist patients in creating a schedule to work on their cognitive exercises and/or stay active in doing their daily activities, and include rest to help the brain recover. Once the brain begins to fatigue, there is a decrease in function. The patient will notice activities and tasks become harder, and head pain may also occur. This should signal the patient that it’s time to rest.
Lastly, there are things the brain injury survivor can focus on that will help their recovery, including:
- Accepting their new persona
- Allowing themselves to make mistakes
- Striving to keep a positive attitude
- Remembering they can continue to improve
Continued improvements may be the most important point in keeping your patient motivated. In years past, it was commonly accepted that after a window of about three years, the brain would not have any further recovery. It is now known that neuroplasticity allows for continued recovery over time with focused effort. Different parts of the brain can establish neuropathways and take over functions lost through damage to other parts of the brain.
Area Manager Jean Herauf, SLP has 30+ years’ experience, more than 20 of them with RehabVisions. Jean is active in her clinic’s local brain injury support group and has attended numerous courses over the years, and read a good deal on ABI.
After having a stroke, many survivors are eager to start driving again. Driving offers independence and the ability to go where you want to go on your own schedule, so it is no surprise that survivors want to get back behind the wheel rather than rely on someone else for their transportation needs.
Unfortunately, having a stroke can have lasting effects that make driving more difficult. A survivor might not be aware of all of the effects of their stroke and could misjudge their ability to drive safely. Driving against a doctor’s orders after a stroke is not only dangerous, it may even be illegal. Many stroke survivors successfully regain their ability to safely drive after a stroke, but it is important that they do not attempt to drive until they are cleared by their healthcare provider.
How Stroke Affects the Ability to Drive
Having a stroke can affect an individual’s ability to drive in numerous ways, whether it be because of physical challenges, cognitive changes, or other challenges.
After a stroke, it’s common to experience weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, depending on which side of the brain the stroke occurred. More than half of all stroke survivors also experience post-stroke pain. Minor physical challenges may be overcome with adaptive driving equipment, but severe challenges like paralysis or contracture can seriously affect an individual’s ability to drive.
Driving requires a combination of cognitive skills, including memory, concentration, problem solving, judgement, multitasking, and the ability to make quick decisions. A stroke can cause cognitive changes that limit the ability to do many of those things.
As many as two-thirds of stroke victims experience vision impairments as a result of a stroke. This can include vision loss, blurred vision, and visual processing problems. Stroke survivors with vision problems should not drive until their problems are resolved and they have been cleared by a doctor.
Fatigue is a common physical condition after a stroke that affects between 40 and 70 percent of stroke survivors. Fatigue can arrive without warning, so it is dangerous to drive when suffering from post-stroke fatigue.
Warning Signs of Unsafe Driving
Stroke survivors are not always aware of how their stroke has limited their ability to drive. If they are choosing to drive after their stroke against their doctor’s advice, it is important for them and their loved ones to look out for warning signs that they might not be ready to start driving. Here are some of the common warning signs to look out for:
- Driving faster or slower than the posted speed or the wrong speed for the current driving conditions
- Consistently asking for instruction and help from passengers
- Ignoring posted signs or signals
- Making slow or poor decisions
- Becoming easily frustrated or confused
- Getting lost in familiar areas
- Being in an accident or having close calls
- Drifting into other lanes
If you or your loved one is showing any of these warning signs, immediately stop yourself or them from driving until your or their driving is tested.
Driving Again After a Stroke
Before a stroke survivor begins driving again, they should speak with their doctor or therapist to discuss whether or not it would be safe for them to continue driving. Many states require mandatory reporting by a physician to the DMV if their patient has impairments that may affect their driving after a stroke. Even if their doctor clears them to drive, they still will likely need to be evaluated by the DMV before they regain their driving privileges.
Driver rehabilitation specialists are available to help stroke survivors evaluate their driving ability from behind the wheel. There are also driver’s training programs that provide a driving evaluation, classroom instruction, and suggestions for modifying a car to the individual driver’s needs. For instance, an occupational therapist can provide a comprehensive in-clinic evaluation of a client’s current skills and deficits relative to driving.
From there a client could be sent for an in-vehicle assessment for further evaluation by a certified driver rehabilitation specialist (CDRS). They can assess driving skills in a controlled and safe environment. An in-vehicle driving test is the most thorough way to gauge a driver’s abilities. Each assessment takes about 1 hour and involves driving with a trained evaluator or driving in a computer simulator.
The “behind-the-wheel” evaluation will include testing for changes in key performance areas such as attention, memory, vision, reaction time, and coordination. After this assessment the CDRS can determine if the client is safe to drive, can not drive at all, or may drive with additional recommendations.
Often times clients may require certain modifications to their car in order to drive safely. In addition, some clients may benefit from on-going classroom training and simulation training in order to meet safety standards. These are all services that a driver rehabilitation specialist can provide. To help find these resources, The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists has a directory of certified driver rehabilitation specialists, driver rehabilitation specialists, and mobility equipment dealers and manufacturers.
Get Back Behind the Wheel
Many stroke survivors successfully drive after a stroke; however, not all are able to. While reclaiming independence is important, staying safe is the greatest concern. It is important for stroke survivors to listen to their doctors and wait until they are fully ready before attempting to drive again. With some hard work and patience, getting back behind the wheel is possible.
All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Reliance on any information provided by the Saebo website is solely at your own risk.
[ARTICLE] Complementary and alternative interventions for fatigue management after traumatic brain injury: a systematic review – Full Text
We systematically reviewed randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of complementary and alternative interventions for fatigue after traumatic brain injury (TBI).
We searched multiple online sources including ClinicalTrials.gov, the Cochrane Library database, MEDLINE, CINAHL, Embase, the Web of Science, AMED, PsychINFO, Toxline, ProQuest Digital Dissertations, PEDro, PsycBite, and the World Health Organization (WHO) trial registry, in addition to hand searching of grey literature. The methodological quality of each included study was assessed using the Jadad scale, and the quality of evidence was evaluated using the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system. A descriptive review was performed.
Ten RCTs of interventions for post-TBI fatigue (PTBIF) that included 10 types of complementary and alternative interventions were assessed in our study. There were four types of physical interventions including aquatic physical activity, fitness-center-based exercise, Tai Chi, and aerobic training. The three types of cognitive and behavioral interventions (CBIs) were cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), and computerized working-memory training. The Flexyx Neurotherapy System (FNS) and cranial electrotherapy were the two types of biofeedback therapy, and finally, one type of light therapy was included. Although the four types of intervention included aquatic physical activity, MBSR, computerized working-memory training and blue-light therapy showed unequivocally effective results, the quality of evidence was low/very low according to the GRADE system.
The present systematic review of existing RCTs suggests that aquatic physical activity, MBSR, computerized working-memory training, and blue-light therapy may be beneficial treatments for PTBIF. Due to the many flaws and limitations in these studies, further controlled trials using these interventions for PTBIF are necessary.
Fatigue is a common phenomenon following traumatic brain injury (TBI), with a reported prevalence ranging from 21% to 80% [Ouellet and Morin, 2006; Bushnik et al. 2007; Dijkers and Bushnik, 2008; Cantor et al. 2012; Ponsford et al. 2012], regardless of TBI severity [Ouellet and Morin, 2006; Ponsford et al. 2012]. Post-TBI fatigue (PTBIF) refers to fatigue that occurs secondary to TBI, which is generally viewed as a manifestation of ‘central fatigue’. Associated PTBIF symptoms include mental or physical exhaustion and inability to perform voluntary activities, and can be accompanied by cognitive dysfunction, sensory overstimulation, pain, and sleepiness [Cantor et al. 2013]. PTBIF appears to be persistent, affects most TBI patients daily, negatively impacts quality of life, and decreases life satisfaction [Olver et al. 1996; Cantor et al.2008, 2012; Bay and De-Leon, 2010]. Given the ubiquitous presence of PTBIF, treatment or management of fatigue is important to improve the patient’s quality of life after TBI. However, the effectiveness of currently available treatments is limited.
Although pharmacological interventions such as piracetam, creatine, monoaminergic stabilizer OSU6162, and methylphenidate can alleviate fatigue, adverse effects limit their usage and further research is needed to clarify their effects [Hakkarainen and Hakamies, 1978; Sakellaris et al.2008; Johansson et al. 2012b, 2014]. Therefore, many researchers have attempted to identify complementary and alternative interventions to relieve PTBIF [Bateman et al. 2001; Hodgson et al. 2005; Gemmell and Leathem, 2006; Hassett et al. 2009; Johansson et al. 2012a; Björkdahl et al. 2013; Sinclair et al. 2014]. In this study, we aimed to systematically review randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluated treatment of PTBIF using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to provide practical recommendations for this syndrome.
Continue —> Complementary and alternative interventions for fatigue management after traumatic brain injury: a systematic reviewTherapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders – Gang-Zhu Xu, Yan-Feng Li, Mao-De Wang, Dong-Yuan Cao, 2017
Everyone has said “I’m tired” at one point or another. But those deceptively simple words can have so many meanings. Without knowing the extent of the exhaustion someone with chronic illness is feeling when they say they’re people may think your “tiredness” can be cured by a nap or early night, like theirs, not understanding the support you really need in that moment.
So we asked our Mighty community with chronic illness to reveal what they might actually mean when they say, “I’m tired.” It’s important for the people in your life to understand the challenges you’re dealing with and the empathy and kindness that can help you get through them.
Here’s what our community told us:
1. “Most people who are healthy don’t understand that ‘I’m tired’ is a very shortened phrase for us. When I actually admit to friends and family that I feel bad or am tired that means so much. That means I can no longer mask the symptoms I deal with on a daily basis and I need a little compassion to get through the next few hours or sometimes days.”
2. “When I say ‘I’m tired,’ I mean my body hurts to the point I can’t explain to a ‘normal’ person how bad it hurts. It means mentally, emotionally and physically I do not want to keep going. When I say ‘I’m tired’ I’m giving myself permission for a second to stop fighting my illness and to be vulnerable. When I say ‘I’m tired’ I’m trusting you enough to show you how I really feel before I get ready to get up and keep fighting again.”
3. “I don’t want to stop helping you, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to crumble if I do one more thing. So, just smile and nod as I go sit down and put my brace on.”
4. “Just sitting in a chair is exhausting. I just want to be able to melt into the floor because I don’t have the energy to hold myself up. I’m not sleepy, I’m exhausted!”
5. “When I say ‘I’m tired’ it means I don’t want to talk about it right now. It means I’m tired of the fight my body is constantly in against itself, I’m tired of being positive, I’m tired of pushing through the pain, I’m tired of never-ending procedures and continuous doctor appointments that tend to only discover new problems. I know everything will be OK and my faith will get me through this, but right now ‘I’m tired’ and don’t have the energy or the will to put that much effort in to finding the good in my situation.”
6. “‘I’m tired’ is code for: I’ve hit the exhaustion wall/power-off button; I don’t have the energy to explain the systemic overload my body and mind are experiencing; I need to be alone; I’m sorry I can’t do that for you right now, but I’m incapable of even doing that for myself.”
7. “Most of the time it actually means, ‘I know you mean well, but please give me some space. I’d like to be alone.’ Predominantly this is when I really am absolutely exhausted and have zero energy to consider those around me.”
8. “I’m mentally exhausted from having to keep it together on the surface at work, when what I really want to do is scream out loud with the pain. The majority of my day is spent ticking down the clock so I can go home and curl up and just be in pain out loud.”
9. “Half the time it means I don’t have any reason for feeling the way I do emotionally, mentally, or physically, but I feel I need to give one. The other half of the time it’s that I’m at my breaking point and there’s not enough rest or time away in the world to bring me out of it.”
10. “It’s usually my go-to response for pain, exhaustion, anxiety, everything. It’s easier than trying to explain something ‘normal’ people will never understand. Tiredness is something everyone can comprehend on some level.”
11. “I want, no need, to collapse right here. I’m in so much pain I want to cry, but it isn’t socially acceptable to do that. I can’t think straight enough to know my own name, let alone what I should be doing right now!”
12. “When I say I’m tired I mean I can’t keep smiling and acting as if nothing was happening. My whole day I try to show my best, I pretend to be the same person I was before the pain started. When I’m tired I cannot pretend anymore, I have to be who I am now.”
13. “I’m emotionally drained. But I don’t want to appear weak or go into details. Saying, ‘I’m just tired’ is simpler sometimes.”
14. “I say ‘I’m tired,’ but what I mean is I am fatigued beyond exhaustion, I can barely function, I feel like I haven’t slept in days, my body and mind ache for restful rest!”
15. “When I say I am tired, it means wherever I am could make a good place to lay down and hopefully sleep. The concrete floor over there? Yeah that looks like an amazing place.”
16. “I’m out of spoons. Of juice. Of battery. I physically cannot muster the energy needed to complete the task(s) being asked of me.”
17. “I’ll stare off into the brain fog and when someone notices, auto respond, ‘I’m just tired.’ It’s so much easier not to have to explain something you know they likely don’t understand. My being tired can’t be fixed. Take a nap, cured. If only it were that simple.”
[Helping Others Understand is an open-ended, intermittent series designed to support stroke survivors and family caregivers with helping friends and family better understand the nuances, complications and realistic expectations for common post-stroke conditions. If there is a specific post-stroke condition you’d like to see us address in future issues, we invite you to let us know: email@example.com.]
Stroke is unpredictable both in its arrival and in the consequences it leaves, but one common stroke deficit is fatigue. Some studies indicate that as many as 70 percent of survivors experience fatigue at some time following their stroke. Unlike exertional fatigue that we feel after working in the yard, post-stroke fatigue occurs from doing typical everyday tasks or sometimes from not doing anything. “It is a fatigue associated with the nervous system, which is quite difficult to understand,” said Jade Bender-Burnett, P.T., D.P.T., N.C.S., a neurological physical therapist in Falls Church, Virginia. “It’s very frustrating to the person who’s living with it because, unlike exertional fatigue, post-stroke fatigue doesn’t always resolve after you take a break, or get some rest.”
That has been Roman Nemec’s experience since surviving an ischemic stroke 11 years ago. It doesn’t seem to matter how much sleep he gets, “I walk around tired all the time, even after 9-10 hours of sleep,” he said from his home in Georgia.
This can be difficult for friends and family members to get their heads around because they have not likely experienced this kind of brain fatigue. Bender-Burnett has asked her clients who were marathoners prior to their stroke to compare the fatigue one feels following a marathon to post-stroke fatigue: “They said the fatigue you feel after damage to the brain is unlike any fatigue they’ve ever felt,” she said.
While there is no standardized scale for post-stroke fatigue, Bender-Burnett says that therapists distinguish between two types of fatigue. “Objective fatigue occurs when we can see physical, mental or cognitive changes,” she said. “With subjective fatigue we don’t see any changes, but the survivor will tell you that they’re feeling extremely weary and have no energy.”
For some this goes on for a few months after their stroke, for others, like Roman, it is persistent. Fatigue may be a side effect of medication. “Post-stroke fatigue is very individualized,” Bender-Burnett said. “One of the most frustrating parts of post-stroke fatigue is that it’s so unpredictable. Today, getting up, brushing your teeth and putting on your clothes may be fine, but tomorrow you may not be able to complete the morning routine without a rest break. That unpredictability is very frustrating for people and makes reintegration into daily life difficult.”
Post-stroke fatigue often changes over time. People report more and greater fatigue in the first six months. It’s episodic at first and seems to come out of nowhere: “They may be functioning well, and then all of a sudden they hit a wall,” she said. “It seems that as they get farther along in recovery, those hit-the-wall episodes decrease, and the lingering effect is ‘I just don’t have the energy to do all the things on my plate.’”
Life consequences span the spectrum from nuisance to career-ending. It can impact a survivor’s ability to function in unpredictable ways: As they tire, they may become clumsy or their speech may be affected. Their ability to understand, comprehend or recall may be compromised. Some people get irritable, while others experience increased emotional lability (crying or laughing with no apparent trigger). Bender-Burnett has worked with people who have made remarkable recoveries but were not able to return to work because of post-stroke fatigue.
Just as the consequences are individualized, so are the responses. If your energy is better in the morning, then take advantage of that. For mental fatigue, the most effective response is to sit quietly with low sensory stimulation, not necessarily take a nap. Some survivors may require regular and scheduled rest breaks or even a nap; that does not work for Roman: “I just live through it,” he said. “There are worse things than being tired. I feel good; I can get around; I can talk. Life is good compared to what it could be. Being tired all the time is not a big problem.”
Rhonda Hand, whose significant other, Tarvin, is a survivor, said: “In our household the fatigue issue is factored in before any event or activity and recuperation time after an event or activity. We just block off rest time like another activity; if we don’t, everything shuts down, including speech. Over the years, we have become much more proactive in scheduling appointments with anybody. There is nothing before 8 a.m. That’s when deep sleep is happening.”
Knowing your limits — and quitting before you hit them — is key to living with post-stroke fatigue. Survivors with fatigue have limited energy reserves, and if they get depleted, they take longer to replenish. “You don’t want push to the point just before you’re exhausted, you want to end on a high note, leaving some reserves,” Bender-Burnett said.
“We’re still learning about post-stroke fatigue from the healthcare perspective, and so I think it’s important that we all be willing to recognize it and have open communication about it,” Bender-Burnett said. “I urge family members and friends to come from a position of compassion and understanding rather than expectation that everything should be better, because, much like depression, others can’t always see it but, if you’re feeling it, it can be quite limiting.”
The Stroke Connection team knows that it can sometimes be hard for family and friends to understand how profoundly post-stroke fatigue may be impacting a survivor. We encourage you to share this article with the people in your life — and, for those pressed for time, we’ve created a quick-reference sheet that you can print or share via email or socia
The use of non-invasive brain neurostimulation (NIBS) techniques to treat neurological or psychiatric diseases is currently under development. Fatigue is a commonly observed symptom in the field of potentially treatable pathologies by NIBS, yet very little data has been published regarding its treatment. We conducted a review of the literature until the end of February 2017 to analyze all the studies that reported a clinical assessment of the effects of NIBS techniques on fatigue. We have limited our analysis to repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). We found only 15 studies on this subject, including 8 tDCS studies and 7 rTMS studies. Of the tDCS studies, 6 concerned patients with multiple sclerosis while 6 rTMS studies concerned fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. The remaining 3 studies included patients with post-polio syndrome, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Three cortical regions were targeted: the primary sensorimotor cortex, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the posterior parietal cortex. In all cases, tDCS protocols were performed according to a bipolar montage with the anode over the cortical target. On the other hand, rTMS protocols consisted of either high-frequency phasic stimulation or low-frequency tonic stimulation. The results available to date are still too few, partial and heterogeneous as to the methods applied, the clinical profile of the patients and the variables studied (different fatigue scores) in order to draw any conclusion. However, the effects obtained, especially in multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia, are really carriers of therapeutic hope.