ME Association Statement: Lightning Process and SMILE trial in young people with ME/CFS | 19 September 2017


The ME Association has spoken out robustly and campaigned against the Specialist Medical Intervention and Lightning Evaluation (SMILE) trial since first learning of the launch of its pilot in 2010.

At that time we raised a number of concerns that related to carrying out a clinical trial on a very controversial treatment like this in children. Subsequently the SMILE trial went through a full ethical review and was given clearance. Nevertheless, the ME Association remains concerned about the use of the Lightning Process as a treatment for ME/CFS.

The research, which has involved children and teenagers aged 12-18 from a specialist paediatric ME/CFS service, has investigated the use of the Lightning Process in their treatment. Its findings are due to be released to the media tomorrow (Wednesday, 20 September).

The Lightning Process is a commercial treatment programme which has been promoted as a cure for ME and CFS. A combination of neurolinguistic programming and osteopathy, its exponents claim it can cure the condition in three days.

Dr Charles Shepherd, medical adviser for the ME Association, said:

“The Lightning Process is not a treatment that we endorse or recommend for people with ME/CFS.


“Patient evidence, gathered from our members over many years, indicates that some people who have gone through the LP try to make rapid and unrealistic improvements in their physical and mental activity levels. However, this is followed by a relapse or significant worsening of symptoms.


“Others who have gone through the LP programme, report that they have spent huge amounts of money with no obvious benefit.


“It may well be that there are some people with a general fatigue state resulting from stress, emotional or psychological problems who could benefit from a ‘mind over matter’ retraining approach such as this. Such fatigue states are a separate entity and not to be confused with ME/CFS.”


He added:

“There has been a very significant growth in biomedical research globally into M.E. in the past decade. This over-simplistic and largely psychological model of ME/CFS causation that is being put forward to patients is totally out of step with emerging scientific evidence as to the cause of ME/CFS.


“We will be looking at the release of the SMILE trial results very closely indeed.”



The Advertising Standards Authority have upheld complaints (examples, here and here) relating to therapeutic claims being made for the Lightning Process. And the Trading Standards departments of two local authorities have also taken action over therapeutic claims made by LP practitioners following pressure from the ME Association.

We will report more on the outcome of the SMILE Trial as it becomes known tomorrow, and will aim to produce a detailed review of the study as soon as the research is published.


Please get in touch

Are you the parent of a child who has gone through the Lightning Process? Are you over 16 but went through it as a young person? We are looking for case studies to go out with a media statement tomorrow.

If you would be willing to talk to a reporter, please contact, Sarah Staples, our media relations manager, email with details of your treatment and a contact telephone number.

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