48-Hour Recovery Period in Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Have you ever noticed it takes you a couple of days to recover from a stressful event or overexertion? A 48-hour recovery period is something you commonly hear about from people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Woman rubbing her neck in discomfort
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Why Recovery Is Necessary

We don't yet know why we need a couple of days to recover from — well, just about anything — but a lot of chronic fatigue syndrome research is focusing on post-exertional malaise—the intensified fatigue and flare of other symptoms following exercise. Several research groups have identified genetic and blood abnormalities following exercise and have documented participants' inability to perform as well on the second day.

What we do know about this recovery period is that we're stuck with it. For many of us, it means taking it really easy for a couple of days after anything big, such as a holiday, a vacation, or an unexpected stressful event.

It can be a real problem for people who work or go to school full time. Just getting through a day can drain you enough to need recovery time, yet you have to get up the next morning and do it all over again. So while you may feel pretty decent on Monday, especially if you rested the whole weekend, Tuesday will be a little hard, Wednesday a little harder still. By Friday? It's not pretty.

When your routine is enough to drag you down, you don't have the reserves to deal with anything else on top of it. Who hasn't been there? Halfway through the week, you have to deal with some kind of crisis that gets your adrenaline pumping. Now you have more to recover from.

Symptoms of Post-Exertional Malaise

Any of our symptoms can flare up after a stressful or strenuous event. The most common ones include:

  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fibro fog/brain fog
  • Anxiety
  • depression
  • Flu-like symptoms (in chronic fatigue syndrome)

Tips for Managing Post-Exertional Malaise

It's likely not realistic for you to just go to bed for two days after every workday, or every stressful event in your personal life.

What we can do, though, is recognize what circumstances are likely to trigger a need for recovery and plan accordingly. For instance, don't do anything for the two days after a major holiday. When possible, schedule time off after big events you know are coming.

Take More Breaks

If you have some flexibility in your work schedule, you might want to consider a day off in the middle of the week so you can do some recovering before jumping back in. Taking more breaks may also prevent you from needing as much recovery time.

Ask for Help

When you can't schedule an actual recovery period or rearrange your life around your chronic illness, make sure to pare down as much as you can. Order groceries online rather than trying to shop near the end of your workweek. Can someone else get your kids to soccer? Can your kids help more around the house? What jobs can you delegate to someone else? Call in the reinforcements.

Get Rest Before Events

You may also benefit from getting extra rest before a big event. That could help your body get through whatever is coming a little better, which might speed up your recovery time.

Pace Yourself

Life doesn't always work out how we want. You'll probably have to go to work or school with a symptom flare or try to get laundry done on your days off instead of resting, because when else are you going to do it, right? When that's your reality, it becomes all about pacing yourself so you can keep moving forward.

Be Patient With Yourself

Also, learn to be patient with yourself. At times, you're like a car that runs out of gas but keeps going anyway. Don't be too hard on yourself when it's difficult to keep push, or when you have to take some time off in order to feel better and be a better employee or student.

Talk to Your Healthcare Provider

Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about this symptom, especially if it's becoming a big part of your life. He/she may have ideas about treatments or lifestyle changes that might be able to help you.

You may also benefit, in general, by building better habits when it comes to sleep and your diet.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ibble JJ, McGrath SJ, Ponting CP. Genetic risk factors of ME/CFS: a critical reviewHuman Molecular Genetics. 2020 Sep;29(1):117-124. doi:10.1093/hmg/ddaa169

  2. Chu L, Valencia IJ, Garvert DW, Montoya JG. Deconstructing post-exertional malaise in myalgic encephalomyelitis/ chronic fatigue syndrome: A patient-centered, cross-sectional survey. PLoS ONE. 2018 Jun;13(6):1-18. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0197811

By Adrienne Dellwo
Adrienne Dellwo is an experienced journalist who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has written extensively on the topic.