chronic pain and chronic fatigue

Energy, Endurance, and Empathy: A Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue Case Study

Have you ever experienced the frustration of waking up exhausted every day, despite making a concerted effort to improve your sleep hygiene? Can you imagine the disappointment of not being able to return to a job you love due to debilitating cognitive fatigue? Or the distress of going from being a fitness enthusiast who hit the gym six times a week, to being unable to climb stairs due to intense lower limb fatigue? 


Sadly, this was just the tip of the iceberg for our customer, Amy (name changed for privacy). Prior to her health struggles, she was a passionate exercise enthusiast, green-fingered gardener, intrepid tourist, and highly effective project manager. However, in 2019, her life was suddenly put on pause as she faced a debilitating trifecta of fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic fatigue syndrome. 


We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with Amy and help her overcome these hurdles. Her inspiring story deserves to be shared with others.


Fast forward three years…


Fast forward to 2022 and despite her continued health challenges, Amy had become more and more eager to return to the life she had prior to 2019, including full time work. Amy expressed this to her insurance case-manager and being a regular referrer to us, he posed exercise physiology and next thing you know it – Amy had a session booked with our EP Shara! 


During her initial assessment, Shara discovered that even 3-years on from her diagnosis, and despite being on a handful of medications, Amy was still experiencing a wide range of symptoms. The most debilitating included full body weakness, fatigue, brain fog, and sleep disturbances. She also reported full body stiffness and pain in her hands which greatly affected her day to day function. Amy had started implementing some strategies in a bid to help, like swimming, but was feeling stuck regarding how she could take further steps forward. 


Shara’s Approach


Shara immediately set to work creating a tailored program for Amy with two main goals in mind: managing fatigue and improving physical capacity. To address Amy’s fatigue, Shara utilised heart rate variability monitoring and activity tracking, allowing for a collaborative and personalised approach to adjusting Amy’s activity levels and better managing energy. In terms of physical capacity, Shara designed a strengthening program tailored to Amy’s specific needs and challenges, incorporating both one-on-one and independent sessions.


But what truly set Shara’s approach apart was her empathetic and encouraging attitude, which Amy found to be incredibly valuable. Shara created an environment where Amy felt comfortable asking questions, adapting sessions based on her symptoms, and progressing at a pace that worked for her.


A Remarkable Conclusion


Shara and Amy worked together for 6-months and after 3 years of struggling uphill, Amy was able to make leaps and bounds in this time. Her overall strength improved significantly, and she is now able to better manage her fatigue, no longer experiencing “boom and bust” patterns. As a result, Amy was also able to return to her job full time! Don’t take our word for it though, here’s what Amy had to say: 

“I can’t thank Shara enough, she has given me my life back. You can tell she loves what she does and showed empathy and encouragement and designed a programme tailored to my needs. Everything she taught me was valuable from foam rolling, weight bearing exercises, stretching and ideas to give my brain a rest. My physical abilities have greatly improved, pain has lessened and my brain fog and mental fatigue isn’t as bad. I can now get through each day without napping or being ridiculously mentally fatigued. This programme worked wonders for me and I am going to really miss my sessions with Shara.”

Living with chronic conditions can be challenging, but with the right support and guidance, it is possible to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. No matter how stuck someone might feel. 

Author: Tessa Nielsen 
Clinical Exercise Physiologist and
Content Creator at Specialised Health

Further reading:

Breaking The Chains of Chronic Pain – Part 1: Physiological Benefits of Exercise

Breaking the Chains of Chronic Pain: Part 2 – The Psychological Benefits of Exercise

Chronic Pain – A Case Study

Or check out our ‘blog‘ page and use the search bar to type in the keywords ‘chronic pain’ or ‘chronic fatigue’ for more great reads!

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