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How Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia Are Different

Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) share some compelling similarities. Research scientists have even speculated that they are essentially the same disorder!

What is chronic fatigue syndrome?

WebMD describes chronic fatigue syndrome as a debilitating tiredness that interferes with daily activities and cannot be relieved by bed rest.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define the criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome as fatigue that has been present for more than six months and is accompanied by following:

  • tender or enlargement nodes,
  • joint and muscle pain,
  • sore throat,
  • signs of systemic illness.

There is an overlap between symptoms of fibromyalgia and CFS.

These include:

  • Headaches,
  • sleep disruptions,
  • impaired concentration,
  • dizziness,
  • bowel issues like diarrhea and/or constipation,
  • depression or anxiety.

How are fibromyalgia and CFS different?

Many researchers are divided regarding the true difference between chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

The primary difference between the two disorders is that pain is the primary symptom of people with fibromyalgia, while fatigue is the predominant complaint of people living with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Fibromyalgia pain is generally widespread and chronic. The fatigue that CFS sufferers experience is highly profound and can actually be totally crippling.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is often activated by an infectious illness and even sometimes after surgery or trauma. Fibromyalgia, however, is usually activated by a trauma, not as often by an infectious illness.

While it is mainly women who suffer from either disorder, women are more likely to have fibromyalgia at a 9 to 1 ratio than chronic fatigue syndrome at a 7 to 3 ratio.

Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia are thought to be separate but related conditions. What they share is severe fatigue that disrupts the normal rhythm of day-to-day life.

Fatigue and fibromyalgia: a profound connection

The connection between fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue is so profound that some researchers say that if a fibromyalgia patient can improve their sleep, their fibromyalgia symptoms will get better. If you have fibromyalgia-related fatigue or think you have CFS, it makes sense to get screened for other causes of fatigue like thyroid issues or anemia.

While many people rely on sleeping pills to get some sleep at night, they are definitely not a long-term solution. And, if you area dealing with a chronic condition like fibromyalgia or CFS, you likely understand that you will need it more sustainable intervention.

The first thing that you should do if you are experiencing chronic fatigue syptoms is to be screened for sleep-deprivation issues like snoring or breathing problems.

If you have sleep apnea, allergies, or respiratory problems these factors could be harming your ability to get a good nights sleep and possibly causing you to feel fatigued. There are medical interventions to remedy all of these problems.

How to improve your sleep quality

Some common corrections you can make to improve your sleep hygiene include:

  • limiting the light, noise and other stimuli in the bedroom
  • purchasing a white noise machine
  • maintaining a comfortable, cool room temperature
  • relaxation strategies prior to going to sleep like meditation, reading or soft music.

Fibromyalgia and CFS resources

  1. CFS versus FM: Twins, Cousins, or Just Acquaintances?
  2. WebMD: Living With Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue
  3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia

Final thoughts

These evidently interrelated but distinct disorders benefit from similar treatment approaches. The trouble with treating these chronic conditions is that there is a frustrating absence of a known cause.

General remedies include optimizing nutrition, supplementation, improving sleep hygiene, and managing pain symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms of fibromyalgia with fatigue or just a feeling of debilitating tiredness, best to check in with your physician to get a diagnosis.

They will be able to help distinguish between your symptoms and determine whether it is fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Once you have a diagnosis, you will be able to begin practice treating your condition and hopefully achieving a positive outcome.

How Mindful Meditation Can Relieve Chronic Pain

Mindfulness- A Buddhist Approach to Relieve Chronic Pain

It is easy for people suffering from chronic pain to develop negative feelings of anguish and helplessness. Mindfulness- a type of meditation technique gives you tools to analyze pain from a different angle and help you overcome your pain!

To understand Mindfulness we first need to understand the Buddhist perception of pain…

The Buddhist perception of pain

Any stimuli that are interpreted as damaging or troublesome, the body and nervous system respond to it as physical pain. According to the Buddhist perspective, dealing with pain is not as difficult as to deal with as the feelings that occur when you are suffering. The question is how we transform our minds to perceive pain into positive feeling rather than the negative. Is that even possible?

Yes, it is possible with Jon Kabat- Zinn, Ph. D., professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who is a veteran of Buddhist meditation and hatha yoga practice. He has established the use of mindfulness firmly to treat chronic pain and illnesses.

The 3 dimensions of pain

Jon Kabat explains the three dimensions of pain that surface when you are suffering from pain:

  1. The physical aspect – sensing the pain and the physical limitations such as movement or carrying out daily routine associated with it.
  2. The emotional aspect – you feel upset and commonly irritated only to latch on to negative thoughts of being victimized by your illness.
  3. The cognitive aspect – the feeling of never-ending agony, as well as negative stories about how difficult your illness will be in the future.

This comes from the story of two arrows from Buddha’s teachings. He taught that physical pain is like being shot with an arrow, and the person not resisting that pain only seems to be affected by that arrow. But when a normal person in pain further becomes anguished, he also suffers emotionally. Buddha termed anguishing over pain is like being shot with another arrow. The aversion to pain adds suffering and the negative thoughts surrounding the pain affect the quality of life.

Based on the Buddhist perspective, you can change your response to pain by being more mindful. Mindfulness is a practice of purposely focusing your attention on pain and accepting it without judgment. As clinical psychologist Elisha Goldstein explains- mindfulness is a learning mindset rather than achievement oriented.

One that involves learning about the pain as opposed to focusing on ways to stop it.

How to meditate

Mindfulness techniques for chronic pain

Goldstein further suggests some mindfulness techniques below which can be effective for chronic pain relief:

  • Body Scan: This involves bringing awareness to each body part. Body scan is also included in the program Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) – founded by Kabat – Zinn in 1979.

A study published in PubMed had reported that MSBR is effective in improving the mental health of cancer patients. Today, even though MSBR helps in treating several disorders such anxiety, stress, sleep problems, high blood pressure, it was mainly created to help chronic patients.

With body scan, you are conditioning your brain to experience what the brain doesn’t want to pay attention to. It also teaches the brain to ‘live with the pain” rather than reacting to it promptly.

  • Breathing: When we experience pain, we cloud our minds with negative thoughts and expression of helplessness such as “how am I going to pull through the day?”…

Goldstein suggests the moment your mind drifts into these negative thoughts, you can pull back from them by taking deep, composed breaths, focusing when you “breathe in” and “breathe out” and asking yourself, “ what is the most important thing now that needs my attention”?

  • Distractions: Watching a game of football can make you realize the extent of injuries players must be having while playing and yet they continue to carry on with their game? How come anything as severe as having bruises or leg injuries doesn’t distract them from playing? Because the excitement to play acts as a healthy distraction for them to focus on the game rather than the pain.

Goldstein suggests picking a healthy distraction at times of severe pain can be a helpful tool. Talking to your friend, reading a book, taking a nap, playing a game or any other activity that keeps you distracted from pain.

Playing a little mind game with these Mindfulness techniques can help you get respite from chronic pain. It is natural, non-invasive and only has positive benefits as side effects!

Quick Ways To Treat Chronic Pain With Hypnosis

Hypnosis as a Natural Alternative Treatment for Chronic and Acute Pain

Hypnosis is a proven and effective strategy for chronic pain sufferers to help manage and control their experience of pain.

Hypnosis can be an incredibly effective means of decreasing and even eliminating the pain response. You can even find some astonishing footage on the Internet of individuals having their front teeth removed while only using hypnosis for pain control.

What is hypnosis?

 Hypnosis is a collection of techniques that are engineered to increase concentration, decreased distractibility, as well as to enhance your responsiveness to suggestions. 

This enhanced suggestibility allows for the alteration of feelings, thoughts, behaviors as well as physiological states. It is important to note, hypnosis is not a treatment in another itself, rather it is a way to facilitate other types of interventions.

Another important thing to note about hypnosis is that everybody respond differently to hypnosis, especially the degree to which they can be hypnotized at all. That said, the secret to being hypnotized is the individuals receptiveness to hypnotic suggestions, which many people think is a genetic characteristic.

Quick Hypnosis/Chronic Pain Facts
  • Pain is a critical component of human life that motivates immediate attention.
  • Pain is considered as either acute or chronic.
  • Hypnosis is a natural disassociated state.
  • Chronic pain sufferers can use hypnosis as a means of distraction and disassociation to help them relieve the pain they experience.

Guided hypnosis video

What does the research say about chronic pain and hypnosis?

A 2000 research study by a collection of eminent psychologists discovered that hypnosis is able to change the psychological experience of pain which can then help to decrease the perception of its severity.

Another 2003 study that reviewed previous research into the effectiveness of hypnosis for decreasing sensitivity to pain discovered that hypnosis produced statistically significant reductions in the need for painkillers, patient self-ratings of pain, nausea and vomiting, as well as the length of hospital stays.

As well, hypnosis interventions have also been associated with healthier patient outcomes after medical interventions- including improved physiological stability.

Medical professionals, including surgeons, have also described that patients treated with hypnosis evidence higher degrees of satisfaction.

Brain imaging research has demonstrated that hypnosis can have an effect on areas of the brain associated with the perception of pain. The more receptive patients were to hypnosis, the more and longer lasting their benefit was from hypnotic interventions.

What does the hypnosis research mean for pain sufferers?

Hypnotic interventions have the potential to decrease the experience of acute and chronic pain in most people.

It is also a more cost-effective intervention, often times, than surgical procedures. As well as chronic pain, hypnosis has been used effectively to treat acute pain, most commonly the treatment of:

  • burns,
  • childbirth pain,
  • bone marrow pain,
  • oral pain,
  • appendectomies,
  • as well as tumor excisions

When it comes to chronic pain, the conditions that hypnosis has most successfully been used for include:

  • back pain,
  • headaches,
  • fibromyalgia,
  • temporomandibular disorder,
  • and carcinoma pain.

Hypnotic interventions typically work on the sensory as well as the affective portions of the chronic pain experience. When it comes to managing chronic pain, hypnosis can be an important tool in the arsenal. However, the patient may require a comprehensive intervention that includes promoting activity levels, improving dietary habits, restoring the range of motion, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy to address negative or faulty thought patterns.

How does it feel to be under hypnosis?

When an individual is hypnotized, they are focused on relaxation as well as relinquishing distracting thoughts and ideas. This will help to temporarily empty your mind allowing you to open yourself to the power of suggestion. A trained hypnotherapist can then make targeted suggestions that will help to encourage pain relief.

As well, the therapist will attempt to provide post-hypnotic suggestion that will give extended release after you left their office.

Hypnosis is not going to attempt to convince you that your pain isn’t real or doesn’t exist, instead what it intends to do is to help you manage the anxiety and fear you might feel on account of your pain. It will help you to reduce feelings of stress, and relax your frayed nervous system so that it will become less responsive to pain.

A good hypnotherapist will help you to refocus your mind away from the experience of pain and train it on to something that is pleasant to you. You might be prompted to imagine that you are somewhere that you especially like, perhaps a beach that you visited once in a distant country. These visualization techniques serve to distract your mind from the chronic pain.

How many sessions before you experience pain relief?

Hypnosis isn’t a one-shot deal.

Generally, it takes 4 to 10 sessions to begin to experience positive effects. There’s no telling how many sessions you will likely need to achieve meaningful results. Chronic pain is different for everyone and everyone’s receptiveness to hypnosis is different as well.

Some hypnotherapist create recordings for their patients so that they will be able to play them for themselves and self hypnotize.

Is hypnosis right for you?

As we have already seen, some people respond better than others when it comes to being hypnotized. However, there is no harm at least trying it.

There are no negative side effects and if it doesn’t work for you, no harm no foul.

That said, research studies, as well as anecdotal evidence from other chronic pain sufferers, have described highly positive outcomes from receiving hypnotherapy. If you’re looking to find a qualified hypnotherapist, you should consider asking your physician for a referral or you can try contacting the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. It’s possible that your health care plan may also provide coverage for hypnosis as a pain management tool.